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.
LSU gymnasts tough task for Arkansas
Arkansas gymnast Erin Freier performs on the bars during a Jan. 10, 2014 gymnastics meet at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - There is an invisible line lurking just beyond the 196 mark for the No. 11 Arkansas gymnastics team.
The Razorbacks have scored 196 or better in all four meets this season, but they haven’t surpassed the 196.2 they posted in their opening night tri-meet victories over Western Michigan and Bridgeport.
Last week, Arkansas had a victory over Auburn within its grasp but had to count its first fall of the year with two mistakes on the uneven bars and fell 196.55 to 196.1.
For tonight’s meet, the Razorbacks (3-2, 1-2 SEC) won’t be able to withstand even a collection of minor mistakes to have a shot against No. 3 LSU, which averages 197.294 per meet.
“We had a little bit of trouble on bars, so we’ve been practicing in Barnhill to get ready for that and just kind of stepping up our mental game so we’re ready for LSU, because it’s a big meet,” Arkansas senior Shelby Salmon said.
“They have to compete with more grit,” Arkansas Co-Coach Mark Cook said. “In the last meet we gave away a lot of little tenths here and there just trying to make our routines, versus commanding the routines.
“If we’re able to vault like we vaulted last week and step it up on our other events like we’re capable, I think we can definitely put some pressure on LSU, and that’s the objective.”
LSU (3-1, 2-1 SEC), which also will compete Sunday at No. 2 Oklahoma, is coming off a resounding 197.65 to 196.825 victory over No. 7 Alabama last week. The Tigers were led by Rheagan Courville, the nation’s No. 2 all-around performer, and Lloimincia Hall, who scored a 10 on the floor exercise, the third perfect score of her career.
“We had a short practice schedule this week so that we’ll be fresh for both meets,” LSU Coach D-D Breaux said. “We have to get better each week, so we’re looking forward to getting out on the floor and competing during this road swing.”
The Tigers’ Jessie Jordan and Kaleigh Dickson rank among the nation’s top 10 all-arounders.
LSU has a better average than Arkansas on all four events, ranking second on the vault and floor, third on the balance beam and seventh on uneven bars. The Razorbacks are No. 5 on the beam, No. 11 on vault, No. 15 on the floor and No. 19 on bars.
Arkansas had other minor deductions last week before having to count a 9.25 on bars when both Salmon and freshman all-around Amanda Wellick had falls.
“We’re a 197-plus team,” Cook said. “If we go out there and we’re hitting all four events the way we’re capable of, I think we’re a 197.5 team if you want to max out.”
Arkansas’ Katherine Grable, the nation’s No. 4 all-arounder, has won the all around in all four meets with an average score of 39.513.
At a glance ARKANSAS GYMNASTICS VS. LSU
WHEN 7 p.m. today WHERE Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville TICKETS $6 general admission, $4 17 and under, $2 groups of 10 or more RECORDS LSU 3-1, 2-1 SEC; Arkansas 3-2, 1-2 SEC RANKINGS LSU is No. 3; Arkansas is No. 10 NOTES LSU leads the all-time series 20-5-1, including victories in a dual meet (196.825 to 195.625) and at the SEC championships (197.7 to 196.4) last year. … The lone tie in the series saw the teams knotted at 196.2 at Barnhill Arena on Feb. 19, 2010. … Arkansas’ Katherine Grable (39.513) and LSU’s Rheagan Courville (39.519) are separated by six-thousandths of a point in the all-around and both have won that event in all four of their meets. … Promotions for Arkansas’ Flip for a Cure meet for breast cancer awareness include $2 general admission tickets for fans who wear pink to the meet and 1,000 pink water bottle giveaways, as well as free schedule posters and magnets.
Sports, Pages 17 on 02/07/2014