Arkansas (16-13) drew a home game for its tourney opener against Nevada-Las Vegas (16-14) at 7 p.m. Friday, and could play more games in Bud Walton Arena if successful in the first round.
"I think we're getting better," said UA sophomore forward Danielle Allen after a spirited practice on Sunday. "We wanted to go to the NCAA Tournament, but we have something to prove and I think we can win the WNIT."
Arkansas leading scorer Sarah Pfeifer (11.8 average) wasn't quite as bold, but did say, "We've been given an opportunity. At least we have an extra week of practice and an extra game."
The Lady'Backs are 12-1 against teams outside the Southeastern Conference this season.
"We play in the toughest conference in the United States," Allen said. "Even though we didn't finish high in the SEC, we can still prove we're a high-quality team."
UA coach Susie Gardner thanked her athletic director, Bev Lewis, other school administrators and Arkansas fans for the chance to play at home.
"I appreciate the fans, because we've drawn well enough to be able to host," Gardner said. "My fear was that we would have to go on the road."
Gardner also saluted Blair Cartwright, Arkansas' video coordinator, for having taped three UNLV games among 120 he taped this season, just in case.
"We'll have four good days of practice, and I love practice," Gardner said.
The Lady Rebels are scheduled to arrive in Fayetteville on Thursday and practice in Walton Arena at 5 p.m. that day.
"I know they have one huge post player and some big guards, and they press the whole game," Pfeifer said.
Arkansas is 1-1 against UNLV through the years, having lost 82-68 in the UNLV Round Robin Classic in Las Vegas in 1984, and having defeated the Lady Rebels 88-75 in the 7-Up Desert Classic in 1994, also at Las Vegas.
Coach Regina Miller's current UNLV team features four players from Michigan, three from California, three from Nevada, three from Illinois, one from Arizona and one from Colorado.
Sheena Moore, a 5-foot-7 guard from Lansing, Mich., leads the team in scoring with a 14.7 average.
Friday's winner will play the winner of Thursday night's game in Jonesboro between Mississippi State (17-11) and Arkansas State (19-10).
"Today our director of operations (Kelley Waters) put some Arkansas State tapes on top of my TV and I said, 'Get those tapes out of my office,'" Gardner joked. "All I can think about is UNLV."
Pressed to comment about the possibility of meeting ASU, Gardner said, "I don't know that much about the history. Ignorance is bliss, maybe."
Texas A&M, the other hot-button team in the WNIT from Arkansas' perspective because of the A&M coach (former UA coach Gary Blair), could not meet Arkansas until the semifinals.
The Aggies open at home against Tulsa at 5 p.m. Wednesday and would then meet the winner of the game between Fresno State and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
SMU, Southwest Missouri State, BYU and Gonzaga are also on A&M's side of the bracket.
If Arkansas reaches the third round, its opponent will come from among Nebraska, Marquette, Creighton and Iowa.
Allen said about the WNIT, "I'm ready to go out there and see what it's like. I'm excited about it."
Pfeifer added, "We're staying in shape, scrimmaging a lot and shooting a lot. We need to take advantage of our home court and shoot well."
Gardner said the Lady'Backs had gotten some favorable attention from their comeback win over Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament, "in terms of fight."
Gardner also said, "We had some Tennessee fans in our hotel who told us, 'Y'all played so hard against Vanderbilt."
Vandy beat Arkansas in the SEC quarterfinals, 79-60, but led by just six points with four minutes left.
Lady'Backs Fired Up For UNLV Game
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