The coaching past and the present of Arkansas women’s basketball will match their teams up on the court at Bud Walton Arena on Sunday.
?Former Lady Razorback head coach Gary Blair will lead No. 5 Texas A&M (13-2, 1-0) against Arkansas (10-4, 0-1) and first-year head coach Jimmy Dykes at 12:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
Blair is now 276-111 in his 12th season at A&M with one national title after a 10-year run at Arkansas in which he went 198-120 and took the Lady Backs to the NCAA Tournament five times.
“I think it's a top 5 or 6 team in the country rolling in here,” Dykes said. “I know they lost twice there in a row, weren't playing well. But they're back to playing like I thought they would all along.”
Dykes, a former Arkansas player and assistant coach as well as ESPN analyst, is in his first year at the helm of the Lady Razorbacks.
“Gary was great to me when I got the job,” Dykes said. “He reached out to me and really encouraged me. I continue to say Arkansas is his second-favorite team in college basketball next to Texas A&M. His family is still here. I'm sure if you ask Coach Blair, he wants Arkansas to win every game this year other than the two games we play him.
“He’s been a friend to me,” Dykes added. “He reached out to me when I got the job and thought that I was going to do a great job here. He knew that I was what the program needed. So very appreciative of his support.
“I think he and I have a really good friendship,” Dykes continued. “But I want to beat his tail tomorrow and he wants to beat mine. I know that. Afterwards we'll shake hands and get back to being friends.”
Texas A&M downed Vanderbilt 75-61 on Friday night.
Arkansas is coming off a 71-57 loss at Ole Miss on Friday night in the conference opener for both teams.
“We’re disappointed,” Dykes said. “We went to Oxford, Mississippi to win a basketball game and we didn’t get it done, but we didn’t play well enough on the road.
“Our half-court defense, which has been our thing that we have relied on so far to win away from Bud Walton Arena, we didn’t pack it up and take it with us and we didn’t rebound the ball well enough,” Dykes added.
Arkansas jumped to a 15-9 lead, but had a long scoring drought and lost the SEC lid-lifter.
“We kind of got what we deserved last night and we bounced back this morning with a good hour-and-a-half practice,” Dykes said. “We will watch film tonight in preparation for one of the top 10 teams in the country rolling in here in Texas A&M.”
“I said it before conference play began that I don’t think you could find another team in college basketball right now that the first two weeks of their conference season is more difficult than ours,” Dykes added.
“We start off on the road and now our next three games are against Top 15 teams,” Dykes continued. “But we are not going to back away from that challenge for one minute. We are going to do everything we can to win that basketball game tomorrow against Texas A&M.
“It is going to take our best performance of the year to do it,” Dykes added. “Hope our fans come out. It is a 12:30 start so you can come straight from church and look good in those stands for us and call those Hogs when we come running out of that tunnel.”
Dykes expects freshman McKinley Bostad to play on Sunday despite losing a pair of teeth in crash to the floor and having a double root canal on Saturday morning.
“She drove the basketball and got tripped and fell right in front of our bench and the only thing that caught her from hitting the ground was her teeth. It was a thud. You could hear it across the arena. I was the first one out there. I didn't care if they called a technical on me or whatever they wanted to do because one of my guys was down.
“I love that about her,” Dykes added. “Her teeth were on the floor, I think I stepped on them when I went out to check on her and she got up saying, 'Coach, my teeth are gone! My teeth are gone!' In five or six minutes she said, 'Coach, put me back in." If I can get my whole team to play like that and think like that and understand that's how you are supposed to play the game no matter what jersey you have on. Especially an Arkansas jersey.
“On the plane ride home I told my staff, the one positive I took out of that game was Bostad's fight and her willingness to say you will have to kill me to beat me,” Dykes continued. “Because 99 players out of 100 last night would have said, 'Coach, I can't go back in.' Because both of her teeth were broken off right there in the front, her lip was bleeding, she had tears in her eyes. I put her right back in the ballgame and she held up really well.”
That led to the double root canal on Saturday morning.
“We picked her teeth up off the floor at Ole Miss,” Dykes said. “They glued them back in for the most part right now. She'll play tomorrow with a mouthpiece. She had a double root canal this morning but she will play tomorrow.
“I want nine players like that, 10 players like that every year,” Dykes added. “That kind of determination, that kind of fight. I love that, I hate that she got hurt but I love her response from it and she's just a freshman.”
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