Lady'Backs Face Tough Opponent In Exhibition Game

FAYETTEVILLE -- Everyone's Internet, Arkansas' opening exhibition opponent in women's basketball tonight in Bud Walton Arena, is not your little sister's cupcake.

The team of former college stars includes 6-foot forward Jocelynn Penn of South Carolina, 5-9 guards Felicia Ragland of Oregon State and Toccara Williams of Texas A&M, and 6-6 center Summer Erb of North Carolina State.

The visitors lost just 78-70 to No. 2 LSU at the start of a tour that also included games against Houston and Stephen F. Austin on the way to Fayetteville.

Arkansas will test Everyone's Internet with a connection that for the first time in four years does not include Shameka Christon, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year last season.

At Christon's forward spot tonight is 6-foot sophomore Danielle Allen, who averaged just 1.1 points in limited play last season but has looked good in preseason practices.

Kristin Moore, a 6-1 junior forward/center from Chicago who averaged 7.2 points per game for the 16-12 Lady'Backs last season, starts alongside Allen, with 6-3 center Ruby Vaden and 6-foot sophomore Sarah Pfeifer waiting in the wings.

Vaden surprised UA coach Susie Gardner by practicing on Wednesday, one day ahead of schedule, and now will probably play some tonight. Vaden is coming off minor knee surgery.

"I've been doing extra running in the morning to catch up on conditioning," Vaden said.

Gardner said Vaden convinced UA trainer Phil Vardimann that she could get through a full-speed practice on Wednesday.

"Her hands were not great today and she doesn't know some of our new wrinkles," Vaden said. "But there's a possibility she'll play."

Allen, who managed to block one of Vaden's shots on Wednesday, looked forward to the prospect of playing with her.

"People don't realize how well she runs," Allen said. "In fact, we have a lot of others on this team who can run. We told Coach Gardner we wanted to run this year, and now she's holding us to it in practice."

Don't necessarily expect a track meet tonight, however.

"I hope we can press, but we won't do it 40 minutes," Gardner said. "We have to do it with certain lineups."

Those include sisters Rochelle Vaughn and Brittney Vaughn and fellow guards Kristin Peoples and Adrienne Bush.

Gardner is building a solid relationship with Peoples, her speedy 5-7 sophomore point guard.

"Peeps got Ruby the ball on Wednesday," Gardner said. "And we all know Ruby can run."

But with eight guards in all, Gardner said. "Our offense is behind. You can see the synapses taking longer than they should. Our guards are a step late on cuts. This first game is going to look like an exhibition game. I just don't want us to make the same error twice."

For example, Gardner has challenged Moore to get more than the two offensive rebounds she pulled down in the Red-White Game.

Allen wouldn't promise a win tonight, but she likes the long-term prospects for this team.

"It feels more like a family this year," she said. "We all have faith in each other."

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