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 look for more offense
Arkansas' Jessica Jackson, right, runs through South Carolina's Aleighsa Welch Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, during the second half of the game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ women’s basketball team will be looking for better balance and better passing today when it hosts Mississippi State.
The Razorbacks (14-2, 1-2 SEC) tip it off at 2 p.m. at Walton Arena against the Bulldogs (13-3, 0-2 SEC), who are coached by former Arkansas associate head coach Vic Schaefer.
The Razorbacks, No. 25 in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll, lost 59-52 at No. 10 Florida on Thursday when freshmen Jessica Jackson and McKenzie Adams scored 23 points each and the rest of the Razorbacks combined for six points.
Jackson, Adams and Melissa Wolf combined to shoot 18 for 39, while the rest of the lineup, which was without center Jhasmin Bowen for the second consecutive game, went 0 for 16.
“I’ve never had a game where I only had three players make a basket,” Arkansas Coach Tom Collen said. “It was a tough loss, but the team seems motivated.
“I think with every game we play, even though we’ve lost a couple of close games to some really good opponents, I think they understand that in some ways it’s an indication that, hey, they’re a top 25 team too. When they can play those teams close, especially Florida on the road - they’re 3-0 in the SEC, they already beat Kentucky at Kentucky - I think they’re taking it as a positive.”
Bowen, who took a collision to the face late in the SEC opener against South Carolina, has a chance to return today if her response to noncontact work Friday was positive.
Mississippi State has tried to hang its hat on stifling defense under Schaefer. But after a hot nonconference start, Mississippi State has given up 82 points in losses to Florida and Auburn in its first two SEC games.
The Bulldogs downed Arkansas 47-44 in Starkville, Miss., last year in their last meeting.
“It’s going to be another defensive battle, there’s no doubt about it,” Collen said.
“Supposedly they play up in-your-face defense and deny even more,” said Adams, the SEC’s top three-point shooter at 46.8 percent (36 of 77).
“We’re expecting them to get all up in our faces, not letting us get a lot of touches,” said Jackson, who ranks seventh in the SEC in scoring (15.8) and field-goal percentage (.445). “We’ve just got to handle it and play.”
Mississippi State ranks fifth in scoring defense in the SEC, allowing 58.4 points per game, while the Razorbacks are first in the conference and second nationally behind UConn in holding opponents to 47.5 points per game.
Sports, Pages 24 on 01/12/2014