Lady'Backs, Lady'Dogs Size Up Pretty Well

FAYETTEVILLE -- Mississippi State, perhaps the best-kept secret in women's basketball, comes to town to test Arkansas' beleaguered Lady Razorbacks at 2 p.m. today in Bud Walton Arena.

The Lady Bulldogs (13-2, 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference) are not ranked despite having won their last 12 games, including a 72-55 decision over Louisiana Tech.

Arkansas (10-5) is struggling along at 0-4 in the SEC.

The Lady Razorbacks, undersized with no starter taller than six feet, finally get to pick on somebody their own size today.

Mississippi State starts two 6-foot forwards (Mamie McKinney, Rebecca Kates), as does Arkansas (Danielle Allen, Sarah Pfeifer). Both teams also start three guards, with the Lady Bulldogs' trio a tad shorter.

The problem is, MSU guards Tan White and Tiania Burns average 21.9 and 11.1 points respectively.

Arkansas coach Susie Gardner remembers White only too well.

Last season, White scored 30 points in a 57-55 MSU win over Arkansas in Starkville, Miss., then added 22 as the Lady 'Dogs eliminated Arkansas from the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn., 79-74.

White recently joined former teammate LaToya Thomas as the only two Lady Bulldogs to score more than 2,000 career points.

"Tan is one of the best players in our conference, and she gave us fits last year," Gardner said. "But we know we can't over-focus on her, because State has plenty of other weapons in their offense."

To try to contain the 5-foot-7 White, Gardner will start 5-8 junior Adrienne Bush for the fourth time this season.

"Bush is our best perimeter defender," Gardner said. "She knows she will be challenged by White."

Bush had a steal-and-layup in the second half of Arkansas' 72-54 loss at No. 8 Tennessee on Thursday night -- a half in which Arkansas outscored the Lady Vols 37-32 by attacking with dribble penetration.

"We didn't give up, and we got better in some areas," Gardner said. "Brittney Vaughn (13 points) played one of her best games, and it was good for her confidence to have that kind of game against a team like Tennessee."

Tennessee had used its superior size and first-half defensive intensity to build a safe 40-17 lead over the Lady'Backs.

"Today we go from facing 6-5, 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 to a team that's not that tall," Gardner said. "At least when we're standing around the jump circle, we'll be looking someone in the eye."

Guard Rochelle Vaughn, who has scored 17 and 10 points in her last two games, leads Arkansas with a 10.3 scoring average. Guard Kristin Peoples is next at 9.8, but she has gone scoreless in the last two games.

Mississippi State holds seven-point SEC wins over South Carolina (55-48) and Alabama (84-77).

Arkansas has losses to SEC coaching heavyweights Andy Landers of Georgia, Carolyn Peck of Florida, Carol Ross of Ole Miss and Pat Summitt of Tennessee.

The Lady'Backs go up against another worthy coach today in Sharon Fanning, who has a 166-115 record in her 10th year at MSU and a 489-341 overall mark in her 29th year.

Arkansas goes to LSU (15-1) after today, but then has a series of winnable games against South Carolina, Missouri-Kansas City, Ole Miss, Auburn and Alabama. A win today seems essential if the Lady'Backs are to generate any momentum entering that stretch.




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