Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Collen: Margin for error shrinking
NWA Media/MICHAEL WOODS --01/06/2013-- University of Arkansas forward Sarah Watkins shoots a free throw during Sunday afternoon's game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE An 0-2 start in SEC play hasn’t sent the Arkansas women’s basketball team into panic mode, but the Razorbacks would like to dodge an SEC start like the 0-4 hole they dug last year.
Arkansas (12-3), knocked from the Associated Press top 25 poll after losing SEC games against Auburn and Texas A&M, will try to earn its first conference victory tonight when it takes on LSU (10-5, 1-1) at Walton Arena.
“I think this is a game we have to get, because now we go play at Vanderbilt and then we play Georgia at home,” said Arkansas Coach Tom Collen, whose team rallied from its slow SEC start last season to advance to the NCAA Tournament. “There’s no margin for error in those games, so this is a game we really need to win, I think, in order to stay in the hunt.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a must-win yet, but I think it’s a game that we need to win so that our kids continue to believe in themselves and they can keep playing the way they played against Kansas, against Oklahoma, the way they played in the second half against Texas A&M.”
The Razorbacks let a tight game at Auburn slip away before losing 63-51 to Texas A&M on Sunday at Walton Arena.
Arkansas (12-3, 0-2) vs. LSU (10-5, 1-1)
When: 7:05 p.m.
Where: Bud Walton Arena
“Starting 0-4 in the SEC last year, maybe it’ll just teach us that you can’t get down on yourselves early in the season,” Arkansas forward Sarah Watkins said. “We still have a lot of games ahead of us.”
LSU, in its second season under Coach Nikki Caldwell, has beaten Ole Miss (84-79) at home and lost to Florida (77-72) on the road in conference play. The Tigers are led by 6-5 junior Teresa Plaisance, whose average of 18.1 points per game is tops in the SEC.
LSU’s 10-player roster features just four players listed as forwards or centers, and Caldwell has gone to a smaller lineup in recent games.
“They’re not real set heavy,” Watkins said. “They run a lot of motion offense, which is something we’ll have to be able to guard, defend their cutters ... and being ready to guard on the post-ups.”
LSU had a long run of domination in the series, but Arkansas has won three of the past five.
“We feel like we know each other well,” Collen said. “I feel like it’s an intense rivalry because the games last year were so competitive.”
Arkansas had enjoyed a solid rebounding edge in nonconference play, but the Razorbacks were beaten by 10 1/2 rebounds per game in their first two SEC games.
“That’s a little bit of a challenge for this team,” Collen said. “They’re not incapable of that. On the nights they really put their minds to it, they rebound the ball pretty well.”
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/10/2013