Pfeifer Leads Lady'Backs In Points, Jokes, Bruises

FAYETTEVILLE -- Sarah Pfeifer, the Lady Razorbacks basketball team's heart and soul and class clown, noticed teammate Sheree Thompson doing a post-practice TV interview on Tuesday and couldn't resist a friendly jab.

"She's going to say, 'You know what I mean?' about seven times," Pfeifer advised two reporters.

No one is safe around Pfeifer -- particularly herself.

A quick inventory on Tuesday revealed the usual tape around Pfeifer's right shoulder, bruises of various colors on both arms, scars on her knees and a large purple strawberry on her leg.

She could track most of the bruises by color.

"These two are from the Vanderbilt game," she said, pointing to the yellowish ones on her arm. "This big (purple) one on my leg is from the Tennessee game."

Her Ozark drawl was palpable.

Someone kidded Pfeifer that Arkansas could have funded an extra scholarship with all the money spent on tape for her shoulder this season.

"This tape is expensive," she said, going along with the premise. "It's about six dollars a roll. That's six dollars a day."

Pfeifer hurt her shoulder early last season, and UA coach Susie Gardner has held her breath all of this season. Gardner didn't want to play Pfeifer so many minutes, but had no choice after post players Kristin Moore and Ruby Vaden suffered season-ending knee injuries.

In Southeastern Conference games, the 6-foot Pfeifer has averaged a team-high 12.4 points per game in 24.4 minutes per contest, usually giving up several inches in height to the opposing post player.

"Heart and guts," her description of Arkansas' comeback to within eight points of No. 5 UT at one point on Sunday, could apply to Pfeifer herself.

At a recent Lady'Backs luncheon, one longtime Arkansas fan asked, "Have you ever seen anyone play as hard as Sarah?"

The only player who came immediately to mind was Christy Smith, the sparkplug point guard on Arkansas' 1998 Final Four team.

Another fan recalled the time Pfeifer was playing in a high school all-star game, and the opposing team had an 11-point lead with under two minutes remaining.

"During a timeout, they announced the most valuable player award and it was a girl on the other team," the man said. "You could see Sarah seething on the sidelines. She came out, stole the ball a few times and her team won the game."

Pfeifer wasn't seething over not being the MVP -- just at the assumption that the game was over.

Carol Koenig, a former Fayetteville High and Missouri Southern player who assisted the Lady Bulldogs this season, told a story that explains a big scar on Pfeifer's knee.

"We were playing AAU ball together one summer, and in practice we were chasing a loose ball," Koenig said. "Everybody else saw it was going out of bounds, but Sarah kept going after it. There was an electric fan on the side of the court, she tried to jump over it and ended up getting 22 stitches in her knee."

Pfeifer, affirming the story, chuckled and said, "That's this scar right here. I had to go to the emergency room. The problem was, there was no out-of-bounds in that gym. At least I didn't have to practice three times a day anymore that week."

Koenig put a different twist on that.

"Sarah was going crazy, not getting to practice," she recalled.

Pfeifer has persevered through a 3-9 SEC ledger this season, facing the music with reporters after each loss, offering no excuses and then going through the postgame routine of icing her shoulder.

More often than not, hers is the lead quote -- win or lose.

Pfeifer will go into tonight's home game against No. 1 LSU believing Arkansas can win, and she'll have an ally in Gardner.

"Now we know we have it in us to fight back," Gardner said after Arkansas' 84-71 loss to Tennessee. "We maybe didn't know that before Sunday."

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