Hawaii Trip Leaves Lady'Backs Feeling Good

FAYETTEVILLE — Before the Rainbow Wahine Classic, Arkansas was a team with several questions still waiting to be answered.

Could the Lady'Backs continue to win despite sometimes poor shooting? Would any of the Arkansas guards be willing to step up a take a bigger role? And how could Arkansas fare against stiffer competition? Well, with a pair of convincing wins against Denver and Hawaii and a misleading loss against No. 2 North Carolina — in a game the Lady'Backs nearly led right before halftime — those questions don't seem as concerning anymore. "I felt the Hawaii trip, with the exception of losing to North Carolina, could not be more positive," Arkansas coach Susie Gardner said. "We bonded as a team, we came together and we built a lot of confidence." While junior post Lauren Ervin continued her strong play inside the paint — despite a compound dislocated left pinkie finger she sustained during practice on Thanksgiving day — it was perhaps the play of freshman Donica Cosby which helped Arkansas the most in Hawaii. Before the trip, the Lady'Backs relied heavily on Ervin and senior post Sarah Pfeifer for a bulk of the scoring. But Cosby showed Arkansas does have guards who can shoot and score, as the 5-foot-7 Coldwater, Miss., native averaged 15.0 points per game in the Wahine Classic, including a season-high 24 against North Carolina. "It was important to have some outside shooting," Gardner said. "We don't know what we'll get from a freshman from game to game, but with Donica and Dominique Washington, those are two we feel pretty comfortable with." Arkansas (7-1) didn't just impress itself with the performance in Hawaii. The Lady'Backs also got the attention of the pollsters, picking up votes for the first time this season in both the Associated Press and WBCA/USA Today Coaches poll. For now, though, Gardner doesn't want to worry about any outside distractions. She's just happy with the way things are going inside the camp. "We don't really focus on (polls)," Gardner said. "I'm not one who thinks about that stuff. "We're 7-1 and I'm pleased with the way we're playing. That's all I can ask for." The Lady'Backs are back home today, looking for a little revenge against Portland State (2-4) at 7 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena. Last year, the Vikings stunned Arkansas 67-65 in Portland. More than today's opponent, though, the Lady'Backs are just pleased to return from Hawaii a better squad. "We did an awesome job out there," Ervin said. "We played so well together as a team and it showed that we can play with a lot of people. "It gave us a lot of confidence and there's no telling how far we can go."

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