UA women know a tough test awaits

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Arkansas coach Tom Collen watches his team drive to the hoop against Florida during the first half of a Feb. 6, 2014 game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas coach Tom Collen watches his team drive to the hoop against Florida during the first half of a Feb. 6, 2014 game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas is playing a basketball doubleheader against Ole Miss tonight in venues more than 700 miles apart.

While the Razorbacks men’s team is taking on the Rebels in Walton Arena at 7 p.m., Arkansas will open the SEC Women’s Tournament against the Lady Rebels at 7:30 p.m. in The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.

Arkansas (19-10, 6-10 SEC) is the 11th seed in the SEC Women’s Tournament and needs to beat 14th seed Ole Miss (11-19, 2-14) to keep alive any hopes of gaining an NCAA Tournament bid.

To assure themselves of an NCAA bid, the Razorbacks must win their first SEC Tournament title, meaning they have to win five games in five days after beating Missouri 72-70Sunday to end the regular season.

“We’re not in an ideal situation,” Arkansas Coach Tom Collen said. “You want to be sitting here with at least a single bye or a double bye, but this is the position we put ourselves in, so we’re going to have to fight our way out of it.”

It’s possible a nice SEC Tournament run for Arkansas could convince the NCAA selection committee to make the Razorbacks an at-large team depending on what happens in other conferences.

The Arkansas-Ole Miss winner will play Auburn in the second round, and the winner of that game will play Texas A&M in the quarterfinals.

Collen said he’s seen projections with eight or nine SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament field, but that it’s tough to guess what selection committee members are thinking.

“Right now our mind-set is the opportunity is there for us to play our way in,” he said. “We just have to take advantage of it.”

Arkansas will try to extend its winning streak against Ole Miss to five games. In the teams’ only regular-season meeting, the Razorbacks won 68-65 in Walton Arena when the Rebels missed a three point attempt in the final seconds.

“Because we beat them it gives us confidence, but at the same time we can’t be overconfident,” Arkansas senior forward Keira Peak said. “It’s the SEC Tournament, and anybody is capable of beating anybody.”

Arkansas freshman forward Jessica Jackson, who had career highs of 31 points and 10 rebounds against Ole Miss, will be looking to bounce back tonight after she shot 4 of 22 from the field in the previous two games against Texas A&M and Missouri.

Jackson averaged 16.9 points and 6-2 rebounds in SEC games.

“This is a pretty confident kid,” Collen said. “I think she really believes in herself. I think she’s a little down on herself right now, but I really believe she feels she’s going to step back up in the next game and do what she needs to do for us.”

SEC Tournament

ARKANSAS WOMEN VS. OLE MISS WHEN 7:30 Central tonight WHERE The Arena at Gwinnett Center, Duluth, Ga.

RECORDS Arkansas 19-10, 6-10 SEC; Ole Miss 11-19, 2-14 SEC SERIES Ole Miss leads 23-14 TELEVISION Fox Sports Net RADIO Radio: KQSM-FM 92.1 Fayetteville, KFPW-AM 1230, FM 94.5 Fort Smith, KURM-AM 790 Rogers. KABZ-FM 103.7 Little Rock, will broadcast the game on a tape-delay basis.

Sports, Pages 19 on 03/05/2014