Lady'Backs Ready For SEC Play

FAYETTEVILLE — So far, so good for the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks. Now the real work begins. With a 15-1 start — the best in school history — and a No. 20 national ranking, Arkansas women's basketball appears to be back on the map. To be all the way back, though, the Lady'Backs will need to continue their preseason success into Southeastern Conference play.

Not an easy task, no doubt, especially with Arkansas visiting 11th-ranked Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. today to open conference play. But as the Lady'Backs see it, the trip to Nashville is the perfect opportunity to show the rest of the basketball world that this team is, indeed, for real. "We hope to get out and make a statement," junior point guard Brittney Vaughn said. "We're not going in there scared or anything. "We realize we're going to have a tough game, but we want to come out and show that our ranking, it's not anything about luck. We haven't won 15 games by luck and hopefully we can prove that at Vanderbilt." Luck or not, Arkansas might need everything to go its way to come away with a win today. Aside from their matchup with No. 2 North Carolina in the Rainbow Wahine Classic, the Lady'Backs will be presented with easily their stiffest challenge so far in the Commodores (13-1). "We've had three good days to prepare for Vanderbilt and you need three days to prepare for them," Arkansas coach Susie Gardner said. "They run a lot of good offensive sets and they run a matchup zone that really no one else we've played has run. "But we've really prepared for that and we're as prepared as we can be." Featuring the league's top point guards in senior Dee Davis — who leads the SEC in assists with 6.2 per game — and a strong post game led by preseason all-SEC pick Carla Thomas, Vanderbilt has been able to breeze through most of its nonconference schedule. Like Arkansas, the Commodores only loss came against a highly ranked Atlantic Coast Conference opponent, as No. 3 Duke handed Vanderbilt a 69-48 setback in Durham, N.C. on Dec. 7. But aside from the one loss, Vanderbilt has appeared as strong as anyone, Gardner said. "Dee (Davis) is one of the best (point guards), not only in the conference, but in the country," Gardner said. "She leads the league in assists and one of the reasons she does is because she has Caroline Williams over there shooting 51 percent from 3-point range. "Then they've got three great post players inside. So they've got everything you need, great shooters, great inside players, a great point guard, to be a great team." One advantage Arkansas might have is its ability to win on the road so far this season. The Lady'Backs are already 7-0 on an opponent's home court in 2006-07, giving them confidence heading into today's game. "I got to looking it up and we've played by far the most road games of any team in the conference," Gardner said. "So playing on the road is almost like second nature to us by now." The Lady'Backs could be without senior guard Dominique Washington for today's game, after her father died earlier this week. But the team is hoping Washington might still be able to make it to Nashville in time for the game. If Washington is unable to play, senior Leslie Howard would take her place in the starting lineup. TODAY'S TICKET NO. 20 ARKANSAS AT NO. 11 VANDERBILT WHEN: 7 p.m., today WHERE: Memorial Gymnasium, Nashville, Tenn. RADIO: Lady Razorback Radio Network; KAYH 89.3 FM, KXUA 88.3 FM, KFPW 1230 AM, KABZ 103.7 FM TV: None HEAD COACHES: Arkansas, Susie Gardner (fourth season); Vanderbilt, Melanie Balcomb (fifth season)

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