Lady'Backs Make Return To Little Rock

NORTH LITTLE ROCK -- The Lady Razorbacks' last regular-season visit to Alltel Arena before Thursday night was on Jan. 6, 2003, when Louisiana-Lafayette also provided the opposition.

Arkansas won 75-57 that night, then returned to North Little Rock in March of 2003 to play in the Women's Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The Lady'Backs defeated Alabama 53-48 in the first round of that tournament before losing 72-58 in the second round to eventual champion LSU.

The Women's SEC Tournament, which set attendance records in 2003, will return to Alltel Arena in 2006.

The UA women's athletic department learned on Tuesday that Alltel Arena will also play host to the 2007 SEC Gymnastics Championships.

"We're really excited," said Arkansas Women's Athletic Director Bev Lewis. "The gymnastics meet is usually in Georgia or Alabama, so we're happy to be getting it in Arkansas."

The SEC Gymnastics Championships are set for Duluth, Ga., in 2005 and Birmingham, Ala., in 2006.

J. Kelley Hall, a former Auburn women's assistant basketball coach who became head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette three seasons ago, has turned the Ragin' Cajuns into a Sun Belt Conference contender.

Last season ULL finished second in the Sun Belt and went 13-15 -- its best record since the 1987-88 team went 18-11.

The Ragin' Cajuns entered Thursday night's game with a .434 field goal percentage, compared to Arkansas' .399. They also held a rebounding edge over Arkansas (plus 4.0 to minus 4.4) and a scoring advantage (71.2 to 69.1), but Arkansas was much better in turnover margin (11.7 to 3.0).

In fact, the Lady'Backs leads the nation in steals with 19.1 per game. Arkansas-Pine Bluff is second at 16.7, followed by Cal-Poly and Alcorn State at 15.5 each and Tennessee State with 14.9.

Arkansas coach Susie Gardner, who had started guard Adrienne Bush against Memphis, went back to the lineup which had started the first seven games for the Lady'Backs: center/forward Kristin Moore, forward Danielle Allen and guards Sheree Thompson, Rochelle Vaughn and Kristin Peoples.

Thompson got off to a hot start for the second game in a row, scoring Arkansas' first seven points as the Lady'Backs took a 7-6 lead. Thompson hit her first shot, a 3-pointer, then added two jump shots for a 3-for-3 beginning after just 2 minutes, 36 seconds. She later extended that to 5-for-5 in the first half.

Both teams shot well at the outset, ULL making five of its first seven shots and Arkansas 4-of-7. But the Ragin' Cajuns missed 12 of their next 16 shots.

Melissa Hobbs, making her first appearance as a Lady'Back, entered the game with 14:04 left in the first half and played 2:02 in her first stint, hitting the side of the backboard with her first field goal attempt.

Just as they were two years ago, the fans in Alltel Arena were very active in support of the Lady Razorbacks.

Arkansas' players returned the favor by signing autographs after the game.

Going into Thursday night's play, No. 1 LSU had the best record among SEC teams at 9-0, followed by Arkansas and Vanderbilt at 7-1 each, Alabama at 6-1, Auburn and Florida at 6-2, Tennessee and Mississippi State at 5-2, Georgia at 7-3, Kentucky at 6-3, Ole Miss at 5-3 and South Carolina at 2-4.

That added up to a 71-24 intersectional record, for a .747 percentage.

With many Hogwild Band members in Fayetteville for the Tennessee State-Arkansas men's game, the women's Hogwild Band still came up with 29 players for the ULL-UA women's game.

Michael Parker, a graduate assistant from Alma, directed the band.

A group of UA cheerleaders also performed at halftime, under the direction of Lauren Hawley.

After taking possession of the basketball with 16.3 seconds left in the first half, Arkansas worked for the last shot and Kristin Moore hit it -- a 10-foot baseline jumper -- for a 35-28 halftime lead.

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