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.
UA women look for home victory
Arkansas guard Calli Berna, left, speaks with coach Tom Collen during the second half of play against Mississippi State Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Close SEC losses are piling up for Arkansas’ women’s basketball team.
The Razorbacks’ four SEC losses have been by a combined 17 points, including 60-58 at Georgia on Thursday night in which Arkansas rallied from a 16-point deficit.
Arkansas Coach Tom Collen said the losses can take a toll on a team, especially one relying heavily on four freshmen, but that the coaching staff won’t let that happen.
It’s up to the coaches to get the Razorbacks (14-4, 1-4 SEC) to the point they make more plays late to win close games, like they did in their lone conference victory, 69-66 at Missouri two weeks ago.
“Do they have to grow up a little bit faster and learn how to execute in these situations?” Collen said. “Yes, but some of that is on the coaching staff. We take that seriously, that maybe we haven’t quite gotten them to that point yet.”
Collen said he is encouraged by his players’ attitude going into today’s game against Mississippi (9-9, 0-4). Tipoff is 2 p.m. in Walton Arena.
“I can’t get inside their heads, all I can tell you is they came out on the practice floor and they were really attentive,” Collen said. “They want to play Ole Miss. If they can come out and play well, get a little bit of confidence back, then I think it will be behind us.”
Arkansas freshman forward Jessica Jackson, averaging a team-high 15.6 points, scored 24 at Georgia after being held to 4 on 1-of-5 shooting in last week’s 54-50 home loss to Mississippi State.
“I think she’s one of those kids who made a huge step in the right direction [at Georgia],” Collen said. “She didn’t get off to a great start either, going 1 for 9 from the field first half and playing a little bit soft, but she didn’t get frustrated.
“She came back, and we gave her the ball and she made some key shots and was a big part of us coming back.”
While Ole Miss is winless in SEC play, the Rebels came close to upsetting No. 7 Baylor on the road, losing 87-80 after pulling within 80-79 in the final minute. They lost to No. 24 Vanderbilt 80-74 earlier this week.
“They’re dangerous, like any team in the SEC,” Collen said. “I know people get tired of me saying this, but I still think just about any team in this conference is capable of going to the NCAA Tournament.
“You can’t count on home wins and you can’t count on any team you play not being capable of beating you if you don’t play well.”
Sports, Pages 26 on 01/19/2014