Say it with me: there's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home...
While UK Hoops has not proven unbeatable on their home court, they are 12-2 which is good enough for an 86% winning record. And they'll need every bit of support they can muster as they look to close out their final two home games in order to maximize their chances of a deep run in March.
Let's take a look at those updated SEC rankings. South Carolina, who clinched the regular season title with a win over Georgia, stands alone at the top with a 13-0 record. Next is A&M (don't hiss) at 9-4. After than we have a three-way tie for third between Mississippi State, Florida and Auburn. And then there's the complete muddle that follows, where Mizzou, Kentucky, Georgia and Florida are tussling, all of them with a 7-6 record. The Cats are still seeking a top four spot. If they win today, and Florida falls to Georgia, Georgia and Kentucky both move up. As Kentucky beat Georgia the Cats would have a leg up. Auburn is hosting Mizzou, and as the Plains has turned out to be a graveyard for SEC teams, I don't see Auburn losing that game. State is at Ole Miss and yeah, I've got no clue how that will turn out. (Based on Vic Schaefer's presser following the loss to Kentucky? Neither does he.)
For now, let's focus on the opportunity that today presents. The Lady Hogs have as horrible a road record as their men do, with both squads at 1-8 outside Fayetteville. But as we have learned all too often this season, that means nothing in SEC women's basketball. Coach Dykes will have his team fired up and searching for blood in the waters when they take the court. That drive is how the Razorbacks have beaten three ranked squads this season: Tennessee, A&M and Mizzou.
Arkansas doesn't appear much of an offensive threat looking at their performance statistics on the season. They're shooting 36.7% from the field, 26.9% from beyond the arc, and hit only 68% of their free throws. Defensively they don't exactly stand out from the pack, pulling down just 35.1 rebounds per game, although that is a tick higher than UK's 34.7 RPG. The Hogs are dead last in the league in steals, with only 7.4 per game. They average 3.1 blocks per game. So why are they considered so defensively tough?
Because of Jessica Jackson. She's one of the best players in the league, averaging 16.6 points per game and 6.6 rebounds. And because like those pesky guy Hogs, the ladies do their best to beat the opposition up for 40 minutes. They force their opponents to commit 16.7 turnovers per game and are very good at turning those into points. And because that defense has held its opponents to just 62.5 points and 38.9% shooting per game. In basketball, as with most things in life, the numbers don't lie.
What do the Cats need to do to ensure another W on the schedule?
- They cannot get shaken up by how physical this game will likely get. We've seen them pull back at bit when facing aggressive teams, and that tendency cannot rear its ugly head today.
- Just because Arkansas can't shoot the ball very well on the season doesn't mean they can't go hog wild on us today. Defend this house!
- Shot selection matters. We saw some truly great moments for our freshman in Starkville. Continue that forward into today, ladies!
- Hit the bunnies. We aren't going to get easy shots too often, so make the ones we get matter.
I'm not entirely sure who starts, as Coach has been going back and forth between Batouly and Alexis, and both had good games Thursday. We'll know more about 30 minutes prior to the game, but honestly either is fine. Tipoff is at 3 PM EST, and you can catch all the action on the SEC Network.
Until game time, Cat fans - GO BIG BLUE!!!