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.
UA women vs. Auburn: Somebody’s gonna win
Arkansas head coach Tom Collen instructs his team during a timeout in the second half of NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 68-58. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas and Auburn - with matching 2-6 records in the SEC - are looking up at 10 teams in the league’s women’s basketball race. With the SEC Tournament just a month away, that’s not a good place to be.
“We all feel like our backs are against the wall a little bit,” Arkansas Coach Tom Collen said,. “It’s going to be a tough game.
“They’re a team that’s very similar to us. They came into this season with high expectations, expecting to be a top 25 type of team, expecting to go to the NCAAs.”
Arkansas (15-6 overall, 2-6 SEC) and the Tigers (11-10, 2-6) tip off at 2 p.m. at Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks’ problems in league play can be traced to their shooting.
Arkansas is last in conference games with 36.5 percent shooting.
The Razorbacks led the SEC with 43.8 percent three-point shooting entering league play, but their 27.7 percent clip in conference games ranks 11th.
“That’s probably been the difference between winning and losing for us,” Collen said. “Right now, I think the defense is very solid. The offense definitely needs to pick it up and score a few more points for us to have a chance to win.”
Arkansas ranks last in the SEC, averaging 58.2 points in conference games.
As the Razorbacks continue to play solid defense, ranking third in allowing 62.1 points per game in conference, they have struggled to pull out tight games.
With home SEC losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State already, the Razorbacks can hardly afford to lose to another second-tier SEC opponent at Walton Arena.
Arkansas freshman Jessica Jackson’s production has picked up in SEC action. The forward from Jacksonville is scoring 19.6 points per game in conference games, second in the league behind Bri Kulas of Missouri.
Auburn, under second-year Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, exerts some of the best defensive pressure in the conference.
The Tigers lead the league with 9.9 steals per conference game. Auburn also is fifth in rebounding margin (+0.9) in SEC games.
“Auburn’s going to be a great test, there’s no doubt about it,” Collen said. “They rebound the heck out of the basketball. They force as many turnovers as anybody in our league. …
“Like I said, their back is against the wall. They’re going to come out scratching and clawing feeling like they’ve got to get a win here.”
All times Central
LSU at Kentucky, 11 a.m.
Texas A&M at Vanderbilt, 1 p.m.
Florida at Mississippi, 1 p.m.
Auburn at Arkansas, 2 p.m.
Missouri at South Carolina, 2 p.m.
Georgia at Mississippi State, 2 p.m.
Tennessee at Alabama, 3:30 p.m.
Sports, Pages 32 on 02/02/2014