Gardner Has Respect For ASU

FAYETTEVILLE -- One day after Arkansas coach Susie Gardner said she had no emotions about Monday's UA-Arkansas State WNIT game in Jonesboro, she tried to explain on Saturday.

"I knew the first question would be the emotion thing," Gardner said after Saturday's practice. "I'm trying to get there. I got a little emotional when we beat Georgia, my alma mater, but even that fades. I'm sorry I'm boring about this, but I'm just in the moment." Sarah Pfeifer, Arkansas' leading scorer with an 11.9 average, provided some perspective on this UA-ASU business. "I guess because I've lived in Arkansas my whole life, I just know what this rivalry means to fans," Pfeifer said. "But you can't even call it a rivalry. Arkansas hasn't played ASU in women's basketball since before I was born." In fact, Adrienne Bush is the only Lady'Back who was alive when Arkansas defeated ASU 80-47 in January, 1983 -- the last time the two women's teams met. Gardner was a freshman at Georgia at that time. UA assistant Amber Nicholas Shirey was a seventh grader at Newark, Bill Clinton was in his second term as governor of Arkansas and Lou Holtz coached the Hogs football team. Pfeifer, however, does know 5-foot-9 ASU junior guard Ali Carter of Pocahontas (13.5 ppg) and 5-7 junior reserve guard Katie Caraway (7.3) of Mt. Pleasant. "I played AAU ball with Ali for three years, from eighth grade through the 10th, on the Lady Hoopsters," Pfeifer said. "Caraway and I played on the Kamikazes, (former Lady'Back) Doris Gaiser's AAU team, after my senior year and we went to AAU Nationals in Detroit, Mich. "I haven't talked to them since then, but you get to be friends when you hang out with teammates in the summer. We went to Busch Gardens and wherever." Pfeifer sported two new bruises -- one on each arm -- after Arkansas' 61-48 win over Nevada-Las Vegas in the first round of the WNIT on Friday night. Gardner was pleased with the Lady'Backs' fan support in that game, which included the Woodland Junior High eighth-grade girls team, which went 16-0 this season. On Saturday, former Lady'Back Shanna Harmon drove from her new home in Norman, Okla., to watch Arkansas practice. "I just spent four months in Plymouth, England," Harmon said. "I wanted to visit Ruby Vaden and my other former teammates." Both Vaden and Kristin Moore, who suffered season-ending knee injuries this season, were walking the stairs in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday. "Rob Tomlinson (team doctor) is pleased with their progress," said UA trainer Phill Vardiman. "Both of them should be ready for next season." Without the two centers, Arkansas has had to improvise with an active defense and a jerry-built offense featuring 6-foot Pfeifer in the post. "There was actually a grieving process after we lost Moore and Vaden," Gardner said. "But we've found an identity as a team that plays hard and never gives up. Our defense was really fun to watch (Friday) night." Arkansas shot just 40.4 percent and committed 20 turnovers against UNLV, but Gardner attributed some of that to the rust of a two-week layoff from games. The Lady'Backs held UNLV to 33.9 percent shooting. Gardner again praised ASU coach Brian Boyer on Saturday, and said she had a lot of respect for the Sun Belt Conference. "I'm very familiar with Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, and ASU beat both of those teams," Gardner said. "In fact, Arkanas State is unbeaten at home." Adrianne Davie, a 6-3 sophomore from Little Rock, leads ASU with 14.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

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