FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas women's basketball coach Mike Neighbors didn't deny tonight's game against No. 17 Texas A&M has special meaning. It's much more than the Razorbacks' final regular-season home game.
Aggies coach Gary Blair, who led Arkansas to its only Final Four appearance and is a member of the Women's College Basketball Hall of Fame, helped give Neighbors his start as director of basketball operations following his graduation from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. So Neighbors admitted it's not a normal game, at least before the whistle blows.
Texas A&M at Arkansas women
WHEN 7 p.m.
WHERE Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS Texas A&M 20-8, 9-5; Arkansas 12-15, 3-11.
SERIES Arkansas leads 21-8.
RADIO KABZ-FM 103.7 in Little Rock; KQSM-FM 92.1 in Fayetteville; KFPW-AM 1230 and KFPW-FM 94.5 in Fort Smith; KURM-AM 790 and KURM-FM 100.3 in Rogers.
TELEVISION SEC Network Plus
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
COACH Mike Neighbors (12-15 first season at Arkansas; 110-56 overall)
COACH Gary Blair (351-149 15th year at Texas A&M; 759-312 overall)
67.1^Points Scored Ave.^76.4
72.0^Points Allowed Ave.^68.3
36.6^Field Goal Pct.^45.0
41.1^Field Goal Defense^42.0
29.3^3-Point Shooting Pct.^33.5
38.8^Rebounds Per Game^40.9
43.6^Rebounds Allowed Per Game^32.6
CHALK TALK Texas A&M freshman guard Chennedy Carter is one of the top players in the league averaging 21.6 points (second in the SEC) and 4.6 assists (tied for third in the SEC). … Aggies junior Anriel Howard ranks second in the SEC, averaging 12 rebounds per game. … Texas A&M leads the SEC in number of made free throws (477) and free throw percentage (76.9) , while Arkansas ranks 10th with 301 made free throws. … Junior guard Malica Monk leads Arkansas, averaging 16 points per game, and has reached double figures in 25 of 27 games.
"I'd be lying if I told you there weren't feelings," said Neighbors, who is in his first season as head coach at his alma mater. "He's a guy who obviously gave me my break. There's a lot of coaches along the way who have helped me learn things. But without him finally -- I broke him down, I worked him hard. He gave me a chance and it won't be like any normal game up until before tip-off. At tip-off, it'll be like every other normal game."
Neighbors' teams have faced Blair's A&M teams twice as a head coach when he was at Washington with each team winning once.
Neighbors also said the Razorbacks (12-15, 3-11 Southeastern Conference) will have their hands full with the Aggies (20-8, 9-5). Khaaila Hillsman, a 6-foot-5 senior, will give an undersized Arkansas team trouble inside and 5-11 junior Anriel Howard averages a double-double. Freshman guard Chennedy Carter also ranks among the top scorers in the SEC.
"Matchup player-for-player, it's not a very good matchup," Neighbors said. "I like the fact they aren't as deep. They play seven kids in a rotation and he really wants to play six, so that helps us in our preparation.
"When you see Anriel Howard and Khaalia Hillsman, the way they attack the glass and get to the foul line, they shoot more free throws than anybody in our league. That's a concern because a lot of those come off rebounds. You can't keep Carter from getting shots. She can create her own shots at will."
The Razorbacks have shown resiliency all season and the players wanted to make sure they didn't finish last in the league like they did a year ago, Neighbors said. Arkansas could still finish as high as 10th, but will finish no lower than 13th no matter what happens in the last two regular-season games.
"I know our kids have had that in the back of their minds since being picked unanimously to finish last," Neighbors said.
Sports on 02/22/2018
Print Headline: Arkansas hosts No. 17 Texas A&M;