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. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
UA gymnastics looking to break winless skid
Arkansas gymnast Jessica Yamzon competes against Alabama during an NCAA Gymnastics meet, Feb. 8, 2019 in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas gymnastics team is showing signs of fast improvement under first-year Coach Jordyn Wieber, but the Razorbacks are riding a pair of lengthy losing streaks heading into tonight's SEC home opener against Kentucky.
No. 15 Arkansas (0-3, 0-1 SEC) has lost its last nine dual meets dating to a 195.8 to 194.725 win at Arizona on Jan. 12, 2019. The Razorbacks have also lost their last nine SEC dual meets going back to a win over No. 16 Auburn on Feb. 9, 2018.
No. 15 Arkansas gymnastics vs. No. 13 Kentucky
WHEN 6 p.m. today
WHERE Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS Kentucky 4-1, 1-0 SEC; Arkansas 0-3, 0-1
SERIES Arkansas leads 24-10
COACHES Tim Garrison (102-119-2 in ninth year at Kentucky); Jordyn Wieber (0-3 in 1st year at Arkansas)
EVENTS Vault: No. 19 Kentucky 48.942, No. 25 Arkansas 48.85; Bars: No. 12 Arkansas 49.075, No. 19 Kentucky 48.9; Beam: No. 7 Kentucky 49.1, No. 23 Arkansas 48.775; Floor: No. 8 Arkansas 49.225, No. 11 Kentucky 49.142
TOP ATHLETES (top 100)
All-around: No. 9 Mollie Korth (UK) 39.467, No. 18 Raena Worley (UK) 39.3, No. 24 Ella Warren (UK) 39.242, No. 28 Kennedy Hambrick (UA) 39.192, No. 31 Kiara Gianfagna (UA) 39.163, No. 36 Jessica Yamzon (UA) 39.075
Vault: No. 11 Korth (UK) 9.875, No. 45 Sarah Shaffer (UA) 9.825
Bars: No. 16 Hailey Garner (UA) 9.875, No. 28 Korth (UK) 9.858, No. 34 (tie) Hambrick (UA), Gianfagna (UA) 9.85, No. 47 (tie) Sydney Laird (UA), Bailey Lovett (UA) 9.842, No. 61 Warren (UK) 9.833, No. 96 Worley (UK) 9.8
Beam: No. 38 Korth (UK) 9.85, No. 56 Josie Angeny (UK) 9.825, No. 66 Hailey Poland (UK) 9.817, No. 83 Yamzon (UA) 9.808, No. 89 Worley (UK) 9.8
Floor: No. 12 Sophia Carter (UA) 9.908, No. 25 Korth (UK) 9.883, No. 28 Lovett (UA) 9.875, No. 49 Hambrick (UA) 9.858, No. 70 Warren (UK) 9.842, No. 85 (tie) Shaffer (UA), Worley (UK) 9.825
The teams split two meets last season. Kentucky took the dual meet 195.275 to 193.975 in Lexington, Ky., and the Razorbacks outpointed the Wildcats 196.475 to 196.225 at the SECs in New Orleans. … Arkansas is 7-1 in home dual meets against Kentucky, and 12-5 at the SEC championships.
They can lay to rest both streaks with a big showing tonight against No. 13 Kentucky (4-1, 1-0 SEC), which opened with a loss at highly regarded Utah before downing Missouri in an SEC opener and taking a quad meet at home last weekend.
The Razorbacks posted a season-high 196.825 at Barnhill Arena in front of a school-record crowd of 6,714 last Friday and nearly matched it with a 196.55 at No. 1 Oklahoma on Monday. Their losses have come against Florida, Denver and Oklahoma, who were all in the top three at the time of their meets.
"I've just been really impressed that they've not been intimidated by competing against the top three teams in the country," Wieber said. "They're motivated to get better because they see where they can improve. We've been doing well, but we can do even better. We're really striving for that 197 mark."
Arkansas has improved 17 spots in the national rankings since opening with a 194.4 at Florida. Junior all-arounder Sarah Shaffer added the balance beam and the floor exercise to her workload last week in her recovery from injury and should be on three or four events against the Wildcats.
"I think it's been good for me to start the season on a slower note, and then amp up from there so I'm ready to peak at the right time," Shaffer said.
The Razorbacks know that improving on their scores is critical, but posting a dual meet win would also be nice.
"The teams we've been going against are ranked so high, so that's definitely been hard for us, but we know if we can compete well against them that we'll be able to place well against anyone else in the nation," said junior Sophia Carter.
"We've built a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence going against these teams, and now we're back home again for the second Friday in a row," said freshman Bailey Lovett. "So there's a lot of energy, a lot of excitement.
"Winning the meet definitely gives you a little more confidence ... but posting a big score is all that matters for us."
Wieber said winning a meet would be a "huge confidence boost" but it's not the focus.
"We really tell the team we've got to stay in our bubble," she said. "We have to do our job. We're not focusing on winning the meet, we're focusing on hitting our potential.
"It's not about the wins and losses, it's about your score. So that's what I want them to focus on, being the best they can be. ... But it is nice to have a team come in like Kentucky. They're 13th and we're 15th, so we know we have the potential to potentially beat them. We're not focusing on that as a team, but it is a nice little thing."
Kentucky, under ninth-year Coach Tim Garrison, won 196.95 to 196.525 in its last trip to Barnhill Arena. The Wildcats are led by senior Maggie Korth, who is ninth nationally in the all-around with a scoring average of 39.467.
The meet will feature six of the nation's top 36 all-around performers. Korth will be joined by freshman Raena Worley, who is 18th (39.3) and junior Ella Warren, who is 24th (39.242). The Razorbacks counter with sophomore Kennedy Hambrick, who is 28th (39.192), as well as No. 31 freshman Kiara Gianfagna (39.163) and No. 36 senior Jessica Yamzon (39.075).
Arkansas sports the nation's No. 8 floor team, led by Carter and Lovett. Carter is No. 12 on the event (9.908) while Lovett is No. 28 (9.875).
Sports on 01/24/2020
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