FAYETTEVILLE -- There was something different in the air around Bud Walton Arena on Saturday afternoon. And the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks noticed it right away.
Playing host to Texas Tech, the No. 25-ranked Lady'Backs could sense an increased buildup around this game. And with a season-high crowd of 3,256 making their way to Bud Walton, Arkansas immediately took it to the Lady Raiders in the form of an 80-57 blowout win.
"I think they came out and the first basket we scored, they heard a louder roar than they've heard all year long and they liked it," Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. "Then we made another play and they roared again. So there's no question playing in front of a bigger crowd gets these kids excited to play and gets them playing harder.
"There was a buildup to this game. You know, we rattled off some impressive wins but most of our home wins were against teams not the caliber of Texas Tech. And so we haven't had the crowd turnout, so I think they finally turned out today because this was a worthy opponent and we were ranked and getting a little publicity. And I hope they like what they saw because we sure need them back."
Against Texas Tech, the Lady'Backs were hitting on all cylinders from almost start to finish. Jumping out to a 21-4 lead, Arkansas beat the Lady Raiders with stellar shooting early then closed out Tech with suffocating defense down the stretch.
For the Lady'Backs, it was the perfect ending to a perfect nonconference season as Arkansas heads into Southeastern Conference play 15-0. It marks the first time in school history the Lady'Backs have finished the nonconference schedule without a loss.
"It's not so much how it helps me. It's how it helps our kids," Collen said. "I can't crawl inside their heads to tell you for sure what they're thinking, but they can't be anything other than confident right now at 15-0. And when we tell them that this is going to be a terrific matchup for them and this is a solid SEC-type team and they go out there a beat them by 25 points, if they believe what we tell them is true then they've got to at least feel like they're ready for the SEC.
"Now if we're ready for LSU, I don't know. That's jumping straight to the top. But I'd rather go into that game undefeated. I'd rather go into that confident and with momentum and with a crowd that maybe will turn out after this win. Because I think that's what it's going to take to beat a team like LSU, it's going to have to all come together."
Like Collen said, Arkansas is jumping to the near top of the SEC when it opens up conference play at 7 p.m. Thursday against No. 11 LSU in Bud Walton Arena. And while beating the socks off a talented bunch of Lady Raiders is nice, the Lady'Backs know they're in for a much tougher challenge once they step into the SEC.
"We're confident we're going to have to work hard to make a gameplan for LSU," senior Sarah Pfeifer said. "The SEC is another level, you know. So we do have confidence in ourselves, but we're smart enough to know that it takes hard work to build that confidence."
NO. 11 LSU AT NO. 25 ARKANSAS
WHEN: 7 p.m., Thursday
WHERE: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RADIO: Lady Razorback Radio Network; KAYH 89.3 FM, KXUA 88.3 FM, KABZ 103.7 FM
HEAD COACHES: LSU, Van Chancellor (first season); Arkansas, Tom Collen (first season)
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