Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Arkansas women revolve around Berna
Calli Berna is seeing increased playing time as a sophomore.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas Coach Tom Collen would love to give Calli Berna a little more rest in SEC games, but the scores have been too close and she’s been playing too well to come out.
Berna, a 5-10 sophomore point guard from Fayetteville, is averaging 38.5 minutes through four SEC games to tie Florida junior guard Jattera Bonds for the most minutes in conference play.
Berna played all 40 minutes when Arkansas lost at Auburn 50-47 and beat LSU 63-54, 38 minutes in a 63-51 loss to Texas A&M and 36 minutes in a 78-58 loss at Vanderbilt.
Arkansas (13-4, 1-3 SEC) vs. No. 13 Georgia (15-2, 3-1)
WHEN: 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Bud Walton Arena
“I don’t want to play her that many minutes,” Collen said. “We’ve just been in tough games. We’ve been in games where we’ve been behind and I felt I couldn’t afford to rest her, and then we’ve been in games that were close and I didn’t want to take her off the floor.”
Berna figures to be on the court for plenty of minutes again when Arkansas (13-4, 1-3) plays No. 13 Georgia (15-2,3-1) at 7 tonight in Walton Arena.
“I actually hate it when Calli comes out,” Arkansas senior forward Quistelle Williams said. “Her playing 40 minutes is awesome. We need that. We honestly can’t afford for her not to play 40minutes.”
Berna, who is averaging 8.1 points, 5.9 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 31.9 minutes for the season, said she likes to think she can play as much as Arkansas needs her in SEC games.
“As athletes, I feel like that’s what we’re here for, tobe able to get on the court,” Berna said. “Maybe after the game I’m a little bit sore, but whatever Coach needs me to do, I’m willing to do.
“So if that’s playing 40 minutes, I’m going to tie up my shoelaces and go 40 minutes. Then I get an ice bath, recover, and go on to the next one.”
Collen said Berna is conditioned to the handle the challenge of playing the whole game.
“I think she’s a kid that can run all day if you need her for 40 minutes,” he said. “I’ve never had her ask me to take her out of the game, soI think she’s pretty mentally tough that way.”
Berna has 101 assists and 36 turnovers for a 2.8-to-1 ratio that ranks second in the SEC.
“That’s something I take pride in, not turning the ball over,” she said. “I feel like that’s your job as a point guard, to get the ball to people and not turn it over.”
Collen said Berna had one turnover at Vanderbilt despite being trapped more than 30 times.
“Which is pretty amazing,” Collen said. “It shows how she values the basketball.”
Berna is shooting 32.1percent (35 of 109) from the field after going 7 of 10 in the opener against Jackson State, including 5 of 6 on threepointers.
“I think she’s a better shooter than what she’s shown so far,” said Collen, who was encouraged by her shooting in the opener. “I’m like, All right, here we go!’
“And I think she wants to be more aggressive. I think she knows she can make that shot. She just hasn’t made it with the consistency that we need.”
Berna said she doesn’t believe her shooting percentage is negatively impacted by playing so many minutes. Shesaid she expects to improve through hard work.
“I’ve been shooting extra in practice,” she said. “They’re going to fall.
“I don’t think you can lay it on minutes or being fatigued. I think it’s just something you’ve got to step and do, and I’m working towards that.”
Sports, Pages 21 on 01/17/2013