Lady'Backs Look To Extending Winning Streak

FAYETTEVILLE -- A surprising Arkansas women's basketball team will try to extend its four-game winning streak at 7 pm. today at Memphis, Tenn., against a 5-1 Memphis team coached by former Lady Razorbacks player Blair Savage.

The Lady'Backs (6-1) trail Memphis 8-6 in the series, but have beaten the Lady Tigers the last three seasons.

Savage, after working nine years as a Memphis assistant, landed the head coaching job this year and inherited four starters from last season's team that went 21-10 and reached the second round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

Victoria Crawford, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, scored 30 points for Memphis in a 79-75 loss to Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena last season.

Crawford averages 11.8 points for Memphis this season, but another 5-10 player, forward Jennifer Sullivan of Jonesboro, leads the Lady Tigers with a 13.8 average.

Sullivan is one of two Arkansans on the Memphis roster -- 5-4 junior guard Tamika Butler of Marianna is the other -- but the Memphis coaching staff lost one of its former Lady'Backs when Sytia Messer joined the Georgia Tech staff this year.

Savage is the first former Lady Razorback to oppose her alma mater as a head coach.

"I'n sure she'll have a little emotion," said Arkansas second-year coach Susie Gardner. "I remember my first time coaching at Georgia after I played there. It was weird going to the visitors' locker room. At least Blair will be at home, so it should be easier for her."

Savage, orginally from Gentry, lettered for Arkansas from 1990-93 and became friends with Gardner on the recruiting trail when Gardner coached Austin Peay of Clarksville, Tenn.

At Arkansas, Savage was a roommate of Amber Nicholas Shirey, now a Lady Razorbacks assistant.

Arkansas and Memphis are playing each other for the eighth straight year, and will begin a new four-year series next season.

"Memphis is a very athletic team, as usual," Gardner said. "They run the floor well and play in-your face defense. Blair coached under Joye Lee-McNelis (now at Southern Mississippi) so long that Memphis looks like the same team this year."

The Lady Tigers' only blemish was a 96-54 loss to Vanderbilt, in which Sullivan still managed to score 18 points.

"Vanderbilt has been killing everyone this season," Gardner said.

Arkansas and Memphis each defeated Centenary -- Arkansas by 86-52 on Nov. 21 and Memphis by 65-42, five days later.

The Lady Razorbacks are coming off a 78-55 win over Wichita State, in which UA sophomore forward Sarah Pfiefer came off the bench to lead the team with 16 points.

"Sarah has what you can't teach -- a passion and a desire in her heart," Gardner said. "I would take 12 players with the same heart she has. She's undersized in the post, but she's our best scorer inside."

Guard Kristin Peoples leads Arkansas overall with a 13.3 average, followed by guard Rochelle Vaughn at 10.9.

"Rochelle is leading by example, and she's helping her sister (freshman guard Brittney Vaughn) in practice each day," Gardner said.

Rochelle Vaughn said the Lady'Backs must play with intensity in their first true road game tonight.

"We have to play better from the jump -- from tip-off," she said. "Their crowd is kinda rowdy, so it's up to each player on our team to find it within herself to be ready."

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