The First Building Block
Arkansas’ women’s basketball team had an up-and-down season that resulted in the programs’ best season in more than a decade.
The Razorbacks won 24 games, had four wins against ranked, overcame an 0-4 conference start to go on an eight-game winning streak and recorded their first SEC Tournament win in 2005.
Arkansas ended the season with by advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in its first NCAA appearance since 2003, falling just short of making the Sweet 16 in a 61-59 loss against No. 3 seed and defending national champion Texas A&M.
“Obviously we had a fantastic season,” Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. “I hope our fans, our boosters and everybody out there agree. We gave them certainly an exciting finish. We wish we would have made one more basket to make it to the Sweet 16. It would have been just a great, great thing for this program. The things we accomplished through the course of this year, almost too many to mention.
“Coming within an eyelash against the defending national champions, Texas A&M, almost making it to the Sweet 16 speaks for itself.”
Collen and the Razorbacks will start to rebuild in the offseason, starting with replacing five seniors, including several who were key contributors.
Arkansas loses C’eira Ricketts, Ashley Daniels and Lyndsay Harris to graduation, all of who stepped up in big moments and sparked Arkansas when it was needed.
Ricketts led the Razorbacks in scoring, assists and steals. Daniels led the team in rebounding, while Harris led the team in 3-pointers made.
Julie Inman and Jamesha Townsend are also graduating.
“I was excited for our seniors,” Collen said. “I think they went out with a bang. I told them in the locker room afterwards there are very few groups, very few groups of seniors that end their season with a win. The national champion, that’s it. If you’re going to go out with a loss, I can’t imagine a loss, for this program, more impressive to having a chance to defeat the defending national champions on their home floor in the last second.”
Arkansas isn’t losing all its key players, though.
Post Sarah Watkins, forward Quistelle Williams, forward Kiera Peak, forward Dominique Robinson and point guard Calli Berna will return. The group combined to start 80 games and average 29.8 points per game.
“I think we’ve got enough players in this program right now to continue that upward climb,” Collen said.
Collen will utilize that group as a base to prepare for next season, but he still wants to add some more pieces.
“It’s hard to look forward that fast especially at this point in time because we’re still trying to put together a few pieces of the puzzle together,” Collen said. “But I can tell you as much as I’m going to miss this senior class and there may be times I look out on the flood and wish I had C’iera Ricketts out there or I wish I had Lyndsay Harris to knock down some threes, I am equally excited about the foundation that we’ve laid with the players returning.”
Next season, Collen and the Razorbacks will try make an NCAA Tournament appearance and earn 20 wins for a second consecutive season, landmarks that haven’t been accomplished since the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
“We’re returning six of our top nine players,” Collen said. “We’ve signed some good recruits. We’re still trying to find some more. I just have every reason to believe we’re headed in the right direction.”