Something To Shout About

FAYETTEVILLE -- When Arkansas women's basketball coach Susie Gardner told her team this week that junior Melissa Hobbs would be eligible for tonight's game against Louisiana-Lafayette in North Little Rock, the Lady Razorbacks cheered.

"It was spontaneous," Gardner said. "Everybody is glad Melissa can finally play."

Hobbs, a 6-foot guard/forward from Woodward, Okla., transferred to Arkansas last season from Colorado.

She joins a team that already has 10 players averaging double-figures minutes and another, Kristina Andjelkovic, who averages 8.3.

"I've been playing Hobbs on the red (first) team in practice, just to get her into the flow," Gardner said. "She won't start tonight, but we'll get her in there sometime after the first media timeout. Her best skill is offensive rebounding."

Hobbs is also a competent shooter and should help a Lady'Backs bunch averaging just 39.9 percent from the field.

Arkansas (7-1) makes its living by averaging a nation-leading 19.1 steals per game and limiting opponents to 37.8 percent shooting.

Lousiana-Lafayette (7-1) should test the Lady'Backs with its one-two combination of 6-3 senior center Anna Petrakova and 5-4 junior point guard Ashley Blanche.

Petrakova averaged 18.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season while leading the Ragin' Cajuns in scoring 20 times in 28 games. This season she's averaging 16.7 points and 11.5 rebounds.

Blanche, from New Orleans, averages 9.8 points and could make it tough for Arkansas to get its normal complement of steals.

"I've watched Blanche on tape and she's very similar to Brittney Vaughn of our team," Gardner said. "She's very quick up and down the floor. In fact, Louisiana-Lafayette is very athletic."

The Ragin' Cajuns played Arkansas in Alltel Arena two seasons ago, losing 75-57. They went 13-15 last season but have lost only to No. 2 Stanford, 67-47, this year.

Tiffany Washington, the Sun Belt Conference's Newcomer of the Year last season, averages 4.5 points for Louisiana-Lafayette. The 6-1 senior forward played previously at Oklahoma State.

Kristin Peoples, a 5-7 sophomore guard, leads the Lady'Backs with 12 points, 3.6 steals and 3.5 assists per game.

Arkansas has been idle since a hard-earned 59-53 win at Memphis nine days ago, but has maximized its practice time around final exams.

"Every day we've worked on dribbling, passing and shooting, and getting the ball to people where they can score," Gardner said. "We're trying to anticipate help-side defense and make the extra pass."

Gardner has extended some eight-minute drills to 12 minutes, notched up the work on in-bounds plays for the Southeastern Conference season and she has added post-practice sprints to maintain conditioning.

After unbeaten Oregon comes to Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday, Arkansas opens its SEC slate at No. 15 Georgia on Dec. 30.

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