Lady'Backs Shooting For Postseason

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Arkansas women's basketball coach Susie Gardner promised her players they'll play in postseason "as long as anyone lets us."

That means the Lady Razorbacks (15-8, 3-7 in the Southeastern Conference) would accept a WNIT bid, but haven't given up on NCAA Tournament consideration.

Their remaining four-game SEC gauntlet begins at No. 22 Vanderbilt (17-6, 6-4 SEC) tonight and also includes home games against No. 1 LSU on Sunday and No. 6 Tennessee next Thursday, and a finale at Kentucky on Feb. 27.

"We have some pretty good teams coming up," Gardner said, offering gallows humor in the understatement.

Even though Arkansas should get extra RPI points for playing LSU and Tennessee twice this season, tonight's game could still be Custer's Last NCAA Stand for the Lady'Backs.

"We're 12-1 against a good nonconference schedule," Gardner said. "Every team that makes it to the NCAA bubble can come up with arguments. But we're not talking about postseason right now."

The Lady'Backs have won two straight games, with 6-foot sophomore Sarah Pfeifer scoring 21 points against Alabama and a career-high 24 against Georgia Tech.

But Vanderbilt presents a stiff challenge to undersized Arkansas, with 5-10 senior forward Ashley Early (18.8 average) and 6-3 sophomore center Carla Thomas (15.8).

"They're the second-leading post tandem in the country, behind Baylor," Gardner said.

Early has made a Kodak All-America list, and Thomas was the Most Valuable Player in the SEC Tournament last season.

Vandy point guard Dee Davis averages 13.6 points per game, and 5-10 senior guard Abi Ramsey (11.7) is a premiere shooter.

"Ramsey can fill it up and she can shoot off the dribble, too," Gardner said.

Katie Antony, a 5-10 sophomore guard, completes a Vandy team long on talent if somewhat short on depth.

"Melanie (Balcomb, the Vanderbilt coach) plays some of the starters a lot of minutes," Gardner said.

Lately, Gardner has been playing Pfeifer, forward Danielle Allen and point guard Kristin Peoples a lot of minutes, too.

"Sarah is becoming a go-to player that we know will get the job done inside," Gardner said. "She had big games last week and we made a concerted effort to get her the ball."

With her right shoulder taped before every game and iced afterward, Pfeifer has gone from a lightly played forward to a heavily counted-upon post player in recent weeks. Through it all, she has retained her desire and team spirit.

"I think we're coming together as a team, and you can't just guard one player," Pfeifer said after Arkansas' 71-59 win against Georgia Tech. "It makes it hard for opponents."

Gardner said she approached the Georgia Tech matchup in Gwinnett, Ga., like a tournament game, with a one-hour shootaround the day before.

"I think winning that game was important for our conference, along with Georgia beating Clemson (88-60) in the second game (at Gwinnett)," Gardner said. "A Clemson assistant coach e-mailed me and said, 'Man, y'all take a lot of charges!'"

Arkansas has shot 47.5 percent and 46.3 percent in its last two games, while continuing to play solid defense. It will need to stay hot, because Vanderbilt ranks third nationally in scoring and field-goal percentage, and typically shoots especially well at home.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories