High-Flying Ducks Visit Bud Walton Arena

FAYETTEVILLE -- Two seasons ago, some of the Arkansas and Oregon women basketball players met each other at the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands, but their teams were in separate divisions.

Tonight at Bud Walton Arena, Oregon and Arkansas will meet on the basketball floor for the first time.

The Ducks were scuffling in late 2002, but now they're 7-1 and ranked 24th in the coaches' poll. They're 26th best in the NCAA at avoiding turnovers.

Arkansas (8-1) lives off opponent miscues. The Lady Razorbacks have harried their opponents into 30.7 turnovers per contest, often with full-court pressure.

"That's how we have to play this season," said UA coach Susie Gardner. "We're undersized, and tonight we're going against a tall team -- the kind we'll see nearly every game in the Southeastern Conference."

Catherine Kraayeveld, a 6-foot-4 Oregon senior who averages 16.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, is ticketed for the WNBA, Gardner said.

"She's big-time," Gardner said. "We'll probably put (6-foot) Danielle Allen on her at first, because Kraayeveld can post up or step out and knock down the 3-point shot."

It's not as if Arkansas can front Kraayeveld, because the Ducks also have 6-3 center Andrea Bills (11.0 ppg) and 6-1 forward Eleanor Haring (8.9).

Corrie Misuzawa, a 5-8 Ducks senior point guard, ranks third in the nation in assists with 7.8 per game.

"Oregon has everything you need to compete in the Pac-10," Gardner said. "Good post presence, a great point guard and solid defense. They're very, very talented."

The Ducks lost for the first time on Saturday night, 73-58 to Ohio State.

Still, they have limited their opponents to just 55.9 points per game.

Arkansas is riding a six-game winning streak and has a chance to equal the best start in Lady'Backs history with a win tonight. Four times, Arkansas has started a season 9-1 -- most recently in 2001-02.

The Lady'Backs have run some opponents into the hardwood this season, but are approaching the point on their schedule when that will become much tougher to do.

"That's why we're putting so much emphasis on our half-court offense right now," Gardner said. "We're keeping score between the red team and white team in practice now, and it's pretty competitive."

The addition of 6-foot junior Melissa Hobbs, who played her first game for Arkansas last Thursday in a 59-53 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, should help.

Hobbs went 0-for-3 against ULL, admittedly from nervousness.

"I hadn't played a game in so long," Hobbs said. "Everything seemed so new again. I felt a step behind on defense. My first shot hit the side of the backboard, but I felt a lot better in the second half. Coach Gardner has told me to just focus on offensive rebounding when I go in the game."

Hobbs could help a UA offense that has been guard-reliant. Kristin Peoples leads Arkansas' starters with an 11.7 average, followed by Rochelle Vaughn at 11.6 and Sheree Thompson at 7.9.

But 6-foot Sarah Pfeifer and 6-3 Ruby Vaden have provided inside punch off the bench, averaging 8.8 and 6.8 points respectively.

Vaden could be a key tonight in helping teammates Kristin Moore and Allen combat Kraayeveld and Bills.

Otherwise, it could be a Ducks unlimited evening.

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