The Razorback women’s basketball team (12-11, 3-7) finally broke its losing streak by beating Alabama on Feb 4. and must now face the No. 11 Tennessee Volunteers (19-4, 7-3), a team that ranks third in the Southeastern Conference.
The Hogs are hot after beating a talented Alabama team in the Tide’s own building. It was the Hogs’ first win in almost a month after suffering a four-game losing streak.
The return of graduate guard Devin Cosper from injury was the best thing that could happen to the Razorbacks. Cosper is right back to her old ways and led the team with 21 points against the Tide and 17 points in the Hogs’ loss to Kentucky on Jan. 29.
Cosper and the Razorbacks’ other guards will square off against Volunteer freshman guard Evina Westbrook. A great facilitator, Westbrook is second in the SEC in assists, averaging five per game. In scoring, the Volunteers boast three players who are averaging double-digit points, led by senior guard Jaime Nared with 17.2 points per game. Tennessee’s most talented player, redshirt senior guard Mercedes Russell, is a walking double-double and already has 11 of them, good for No. 22 in the country. The Springfield, Oregon, native was named as a finalist for the Lisa Leslie Award on Feb. 3.
The Volunteers swept the conference player awards this week after Nared was named the SEC Player of the Week, and Westbrook took home the SEC Freshman of the Week after the Vols beat Vanderbilt on the road, 74-64. Nared and Russell combined for 50 points in the win.
The Razorbacks will not want to miss many shots this game because, unfortunately for the Hogs, they’ll most likely pay for it. The Volunteers are the best rebounding team in the SEC, averaging an incredible 45 boards per game.
Tennessee also has the best perimeter defense in the conference, forcing opponents to shoot about 27 percent from beyond the arc. The Hogs will have to hope for another night like Feb 4., when the Volunteers allowed Vandy to shoot 47 percent from three. However, the Razorbacks have only shot 28 percent from three while being ranked No. 19 in the country in three-point field goals attempted, according to the NCAA stat log.
It will be a tall task for the Razorbacks to get a victory out of this game, and it’s getting increasingly difficult for the Razorbacks to finish the season above .500, but that doesn’t bother Razorback coach Mike Neighbors, who said this season shouldn’t be measured by wins and losses.
“We’re not really in a results-based situation,” Neighbors said. “People that say there’s no such thing as moral victories haven’t ever been a part of a team in a rebuilding situation.”
The game will tip off at 7 p.m. Thursday in Bud Walton Arena and will air live on SEC Network Plus.