Lady'Backs Get Set To Take On No. 16 Purdue

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' surprising Lady Razorbacks (2-0) meet No. 16 Purdue (1-0) in basketball for just the second time at 6 p.m. today at Corpus Christi, Texas, in something called the Flint Hills Islander Classic.

The winner of tonight's game will play the winner of the Idaho State-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi game in Friday's finals; the two losers will play for third place. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will play at 7 p.m. both nights, regardless of the opponent.

Purdue defeated Arkansas 91-63 in the first round of the Women's NCAA Midwest Regional at West Lafayette, Ind., in 1989 to end a 22-8 Lady'Backs season under then-coach John Sutherland.

The two teams haven't met since then, but they have something of a Southeastern Conference connection in that current Auburn coach Nell Fortner guided the Boilermakers in 1996-97, and current Florida coach Carolyn Peck coached Purdue the next two seasons, including a 34-1 national title campaign in 1998-99.

Kristy Curry has guided Purdue since the 1999-2000 season, posting a 137-31 mark.

The Boilermakers were supposed to be rebuilding after going 29-4 last season and reaching the NCAA Sweet 16, but they opened with a 107-39 trouncing of Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne.

Similarly, Arkansas was written off by many after losing SEC Player of the Year Shameka Christon from a 16-12 team last season. But the Lady'Backs have caused 86 turnovers while drubbing Alabama State 74-49 and Centenary 86-52.

Their 45 steals against Alabama State marked a school record, as did their 28 steals against Centenary.

"We're going to have to continue to get cheap baskets," said second-year UA coach Susie Gardner. "Because we've struggled in our halfcourt offense."

However, UA second-team preseason All-SEC center Ruby Vaden changed the equation a bit by scoring 18 points in 13 minutes off the bench against Centenary. Vaden, 6-foot-3, has been very animated this season, slapping hands with every player on the bench each time she leaves the court.

Sarah Pfeifer, a 6-foot projected starter at forward for Arkansas, is also coming off the bench for now as she continues to strengthen both of her shoulders. Pfeifer is averaging 5.0 points in limited playing time.

Sophomore Danielle Allen, who has moved into Christon's vacated forward spot, leads Arkansas with 14.5 points per game, followed by speedy point guard Kristin Peoples at 11.5 and junior guard Rochelle Vaughn at 10.0.

Natasha Bogdanova, a 6-4 freshman reserve forward, leads Purdue at 23.0, with 6-2 forward Erin Lawless right behind at 22.0. Junior forward Aya Traore of Dakar, Senegal, averages 15 points and 7 rebounds, while starting center Emily Heikes averages 10 points.

The Lady'Backs have played on Thanksgiving Day just once, edging Old Dominion 54-49 in the 2002 Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Arkansas returns home against Western Kentucky at 2 p.m. Sunday.

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