Women's Basketball Opens SEC Play With #23 Arkansas
Jan. 2, 2013
AUBURN - The Auburn women's basketball team (11-2) will open Southeastern Conference play Thursday night at Auburn Arena as the Tigers host 23rd-ranked Arkansas (12-1). Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CT, Thursday in the matchup of two of the top five teams in the league.
"Anytime you can go in at 11-2, it has definitely given our kids a chance to have some confidence," said Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy. "We have played in some tough games so it gives them a chance to understand how to play real hard, how to win from being down, how to hold on to leads. We have been in a lot games to help us prepare and get ready. Is the competition in the SEC tougher? Of course, but when you have a mental confidence in yourself, it makes you feel a lot better."
For the senior class, the 11-2 mark is the best in their time at Auburn to take into SEC play. Already at 11 wins, just two shy of last year's season total, the Tigers are feeling good heading into the league schedule but know there is work to be done.
"I think the team is feeling pretty confident, but the practices are all the same, they are still tough," said Williams-Flournoy. "Sometimes they probably feel like they do not ever do anything right, but it is just our way of letting them know that, yeah, we are 11-2, but we cannot get complacent. We have a tough conference in front of us and we have to be ready."
The game against the No. 23 Razorbacks pits two of the top teams in the league against each other coming out of non-conference play. Arkansas is tied for the best record in the league at 12-1, tied with Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina. Auburn is just one loss behind and has the fifth-best record heading into SEC play.
The Razorbacks are Auburn's first ranked opponent of the season and are under the direction of sixth-year head coach Tom Collen. Williams-Flournoy will not be getting her first look at a Collen-coached team as the pair met up a couple times in the Big East while he was at Louisville and she at Georgetown.
"Tom always runs those ball-screens," said Williams-Flournoy. "Everyone has their style of play and that is his style of play offensively, just like our style of play is pressing. We've seen it before."
The Razorbacks feature three players averaging double figures in their first 13 games. Senior sharp shooter and powerful post player Sarah Watkins leads Arkansas in scoring with 13.5 points per game. Watkins is also 43-of-49 from the stripe. Junior Keira Peak averages 13.4 points, while also adding a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game. Senior Quistel Williams adds 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
"Sarah Watkins and Keira Peak are really tough. Peak is hard to guard off the bounce and she plays with such a high energy and a high motor, she is a kid that is just always around," said Williams-Flournoy. "Those two kids are the go-to players that have really been the go-to players, the spark for Arkansas this season. They also just have so many other pieces. Calli Berna is a steady point guard, she runs the team. They are a good, all-around basketball team."
Arkansas had a successful non-conference season, dropping just one game to No. 13 Oklahoma in a 73-70 nail-biter. The Razorbacks are averaging 76.6 points per game, while allowing just 54. Despite shooting just .437 on the season, Arkansas relies on rebounds and turnovers to get the win, as the Razorbacks are averaging a rebounding margin of 6.2 and creating 20.5 turnovers per game.
"Arkansas is a really good team and they have a few things we are going to have to be ready to defend," said Williams-Flournoy. "They have a million ball-screens, just like the NBA, but ball-screens are hard to defend, especially when they have some really good players that can either shoot the 3 off the ball-screens or penetrate to the basket. They also have Sarah Watkins coming off the bench, who is a true starter. Arkansas is playing really well right now and they are a tough matchup for us in our first SEC game."
Doors will open at Auburn Arena at 4:30 p.m. CT, Thursday. The first 500 fans through the doors will receive drawstring backpacks. Fans can listen to the game on 96.7 FM in Auburn or on AuburnTigers.com with Andy Burcham and Stephanie Follett calling the action. GameTracker and a video Web stream will also be available on AuburnTigers.com.
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