Women's basketball has been a part of the fabric of the
University of Arkansas for almost a century. Teams of female students took to
outdoor courts and peach baskets just after the turn of the century. While the women waited until 1976 for the
first varsity team to officially represent the University, these early photos
show how the game captured what was then deemed "the fairer sex" in action.
THE FIRST TEAM
As the photo at right illustrates, almost since the turn of
the century, women have banded together to play basketball at the University of
Arkansas. In fact, yearbook references to women's basketball predate men's
basketball at Arkansas. There are photographs of at least three teams of
women's basketball players prior to 1910.
From the 1930s until the late 1950s, some of the nation's best AAU
players and teams came from the state of Arkansas. After years of "extramural"
women's basketball in the late 1960s and early 1970s at the University, the
first varsity Razorback basketball team took the court in Barnhill Arena in
1976-77. Under Coach Sharon Ogle, these Razorbacks established the winning
tradition at Arkansas with a 10-6 season. Composed of walk-ons, the 1976-77
team was undefeated in Barnhill Arena (6-0) and set a school record for largest
margin of victory that may never be broken-79 points- with a 108-29 win over
Bartlesville Wesleyan. Three walk-ons received aid to become the first
scholarship women at Arkansas: Camille Yancey of Marvel, Pat Keck from Rogers,
and Carol Ann Riggs of Fayetteville.
IN THE BROYLES TRADITION
The next season, the University of Arkansas awarded its
first women's athletic scholarship to a freshman recruit. A local basketball
star at Fayetteville High, Betsy Broyles, became the first Razorback high school
recruit, one of 10 women recruited during the 1977-78 season. Wearing No. 30
for Arkansas, Betsy, daughter of former athletic director Frank Broyles, had
her playing career cut short by an injury, but she did letter two seasons at
ARKANSAS' FIRST SUPERSTAR
Wynne, Arkansas', Bettye Fiscus arrived at the University in
1981, and Razorback basketball was never the same. Fiscus set the University
record for scoring-man or woman-at 2,073 as Arkansas' first All-American. While
NBA star Todd Day finally broke Fiscus' scoring mark, she still holds almost
all the women's basketball career scoring records. Her jersey-No. 5-was the
first retired by the University, receiving that honor in 1986.
FIRST NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
A senior-laden Razorback club that had advanced to the NCAA
Tournament in 1986 received the snub of the committee in 1987. Behind
co-captain guard Tracy Webb, the 1986-87 team wrecked its vengeance on the
National Women's Invitational Tournament, sweeping through the postseason
tournament to bring home the first team national title for a women's squad at
Arkansas. Arkansas averaged over 100 points per game for the tournament,
crushing California, 112-80, in the championship game.
"DIALING" FOR TROPHIES
Arkansas and the Dial Soap Women's Basketball Classic series
had a long, distinguished history. The Dial Classics were the longest-running
series in women's hoops. Arkansas had the unofficial distinction of winning
more Dial trophies than any team starting in Minnesota. In fact, the Razorbacks
played in eight different Dial tournaments in eight seasons, winning trophies
in six. This past record combined with increasing promotions led to Arkansas
receiving the right to host one of the coveted tournaments, bringing the Dial
series to Fayetteville in 1991 (photo above) until the series was disbanded in
THE SHOTS HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD
On Feb. 23, 1990, Arkansas ended the longest conference
winning streak in NCAA history by defeating the Texas Lady Longhorns, 82-77.
The win broke UT's 183-game streak against Southwest Conference foes, and
cleared the way for the first non-Texas SWC women's basketball titlist. It also
ended the nation's longest active home win streak at 47 games. Senior guard
Juliet Jackson, who hit six free throws in the closing minute to clinch the
game, summed it up best: "We messed up all their streaks." The next week junior
center Delmonica DeHorney was named Sports Illustrated women's college
basketball player of the week.
ONLY SWC WOMEN'S TROPHIES OUTSIDE THE LONE STAR STATE
Arkansas was the first team to beat Texas and the first team
to win a share, then later an outright, Southwest Conference championship
besides the Lady Longhorns. In 1991, Arkansas also ended the Lone Star state's
dominance of the SWC tournament by defeating Texas Tech for the title. These
three trophies-the 1990 and 1991 SWC Championship and 1991 SWC Classic-are the
only women's basketball trophies in captivity outside the state of Texas.
DELMONICA DEHORNEY, ALL-AMERICAN
While Delmonica DeHorney may have several notable seconds in
her resume- second Razorback player to have her jersey (50) retired, second
Razorback to play professional basketball, second all-time leading scorer
(1,785)-she claims one of the most significant firsts: the first Kodak All-American
at the University of Arkansas. DeHorney also is in the record books as the
all-time leader in field goal percentage and blocked shots for a career. Her
domination in the paint carried Arkansas to the 1990 NCAA West Regional Finals
and to the 1991 NCAA Sweet 16. A two-time SWC Player of the Year, Delmonica is
the only women's basketball player in SWC history to earn three conference
honors. She was SWC Newcomer of the Year as a freshman. DeHorney was inducted into the UA Hall of
Honor in 2000.
BARNHILL CROWDS TO REMEMBER
Beginning with the 1989-90 season, the Razorbacks declared
W.A.R. (Women's Attendance Record) on a select opponent. The first two W.A.R.s
were against Texas, and resulted in the two largest crowds at Barnhill for a
women's basketball game. Upon entering the SEC, Arkansas had a Border W.A.R.
with LSU. W.A.R. IV featured the 24th-ranked Kentucky Lady Kats. Arkansas'
feared home crowd worked its Barnhill magic in the last three W.A.R.s. The last
two years were particularly dramatic as the Razorback fans rallied Arkansas
from halftime deficits.
AN ALL-AMERICAN BY EVERY MEASURE
No other point guard in Arkansas history had a career that
can match Newark's Amber Nicholas. In her four years, she never missed a game,
playing 117 consecutive games, and she set the record for the most consecutive
games started: 87. Nicholas set the school record for career assists, and her
steady hand guided Arkansas to the best record of any four year period in
school history. Named the MVP of the 1991 SWC Tournament, Nicholas also earned
three Dial MVP awards in consecutive seasons. One of the most beloved
Razorbacks, Nicholas also was a two-time selection to the highly prestigious
CoSIDA Academic All-America team and received an NCAA Postgraduate
Scholarship. She was inducted into the
Hall of Honor in 2002.
THE NATION COMES TO FAYETTEVILLE
At the end of the 1993-94 season, the University of Arkansas
Women's Athletics Department hosted the first major NCAA championship event
held in the state of Arkansas. The 1994 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball
Mideast Regional set marks for regional attendance and hospitality. A true
community project, one of the highlights was a street party and battle of the
bands on the downtown square called Fayetteville Friday Night for the two teams
in Saturday's championship game. Louisiana Tech advanced from Fayetteville to
the Final Four with upsets of No. 1-ranked Tennessee and Lisa Leslie's USC
A MOMENT IN TIME
As the Razorbacks prepared to move to Bud Walton Arena in
December 1993, the Women's Athletics Department held a celebration of 17 years
of women's hoops in Barnhill Arena with "A Moment in Time." The banquet held in
Barnhill was attended by dozens of former Razorbacks, including three of the
four career leaders. A special retrospective video tracing the Razorbacks and
their winning tradition in Barnhill was screened as a part of the festivities.
THE CARDIAC KIDS
The 1994-95 season saw the Razorbacks return to the
Associated Press Top 25 and the NCAA tournament, posting a 23-7 record.
Arkansas did it by winning nine games in the closing minute, three games on
last shots, with a team composed mostly of freshmen and sophomores.
A STREAK UNEQUALED
The first freshman recruit to start opening day at point
guard for Arkansas, Christy Smith earned attention for her free throw
shooting-89.9% to lead the nation-and her tenacious defense-leading the SEC in
steals with 3.0 per game. But on Dec. 6, 1995, Smith took her first step toward
a mark that might stand for all time. The 5-6 West Lafayette, Ind., point guard
started that night against Alabama, and did not leave the court against a SEC
opponent for the rest of the season. For all 11 regular season games and two
SEC tournament games, Smith played 525 consecutive minutes-a feat unequaled by
man or woman in the league. The 1995 SEC Freshman of the Year, Smith also became
Arkansas' first woman named to the Associated Press All-America team as an
A PRESIDENTIAL VISIT
Usually, the national champion visits the President of the
United States in the White House. On
Dec. 9, 1996, President Bill Clinton visited the women's basketball team in
their locker room during halftime of the men's game with Cincinnati. It may be the first time a sitting President
has dropped in to the locker room of a collegiate women's basketball team, and
as luck would have it, it was not the last time the Razorbacks posed with the
DREAMS DO COME TRUE
March 9, 1998, the Razorbacks wanted to get back into the NCAA Tournament. By March 27, 1998, they were in the NCAA
Final Four, living the dream they had wished for years. Arkansas made NCAA Tournament history as the
lowest seed -- #9 in the West -- to advance to the Final Four. They were the first unranked team in women's
basketball history during the modern era to reach the Final Four. And, they were the lowest finishing team in
conference play -- tied for sixth in the SEC -- to reach the Final Four. Arkansas did it all on the west coast,
spending two whole weeks in the Bay Area.
Along the way, the Razorbacks beat three conference champions -- WAC,
Pacific, Ivy and ACC -- and three ranked teams -- Hawai'i, Kansas and Duke --
to face conference rival Tennessee at Kansas City.
played all four of its pre-Final Four games on late night TV, earning the
nickname of Good Morning America's team.
Every member of the team contributed to the run, starting with a
24-point effort by Karyn Karlin in the opening round win over #20 Hawai'i,
76-70. Then it was freshman Wendi
Willits' turn with a near-NCAA record six three-pointers to blow open Arkansas'
second round contest with Harvard, 82-64.
In the opening round games held at Stanford, Calif., Christy Smith had
zero turnovers and 16 assists.
the West Regionals in Oakland, junior Sytia Messer stepped to the front as
Arkansas' leading scorer in both wins, earning herself the honor as the most
outstanding player at the West Regional.
Messer had 23 points as Arkansas used an impressive 54-point second half
to dispatch Kansas, 79-63, in the Sweet 16.
Fellow junior Treva Christensen announced herself with 14 points off the
bench against Duke to earn all-tournament selection. Junior Tennille Adams was 6-of-9 with 14 off
the bench including the go-ahead bucket in the closing minutes against Duke.
defining moment belonged to Smith, as she calmly sank four free throws in the
final seconds to send Arkansas to the Final Four for the first time with a
77-72 win over ACC champion Duke.
FIVE GAMES TO GLORY
the 1999 season ended, Arkansas was 15-14 and 11th in the SEC. Leading scorer Karyn Karlin was out for the year
with a torn ACL. Not the ending
Cinderella hoped for after the Final Four.
But Arkansas got a second chance with the WNIT, and by virtue of its
season attendance was chosen to host the opener with SLC champion Northwestern
State. Sophomore Lonniya Bragg, quiet
most of the season, tore into NSU for a career-tying 22 points. Arena conflicts helped Arkansas host round
two, and a late-season snowstorm led to the smallest crowd at Bud Walton for
women's basketball (890). Those that
braved the weather saw a sophomore class record 35 points as Okie Wendi Willits
busted the Sooners in an overtime thriller, 97-93. The crowds began to pour back into Bud
Walton, and Arkansas survived Rice, 76-70, in the quarterfinals thanks to 18
from Bragg. The WNIT picked Arkansas to
host again, and the crowd and the Razorbacks did not disappoint as 9,041 saw
5-11 Bragg rack up a career-high 23 against the 6-5 and 6-4 posts of MVC
runner-up Drake in a 80-56 rout. It set
the stage for a titanic showdown at Walton with Wisconsin. An all-time record 14,163 paid to see
Arkansas win the title behind an inspired senior performance from Kamara
Stancle with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
The victory was marred by the sudden illness and death of Sytia Messer's
mother on the eve of the game.
AMERICA'S BEST THREE-POINT SHOOTER
Wendi Willits shattered all of Arkansas' three-point records
during the 1998-99 season. More
impressive, the 5-8 Fort Cobb, Okla., sophomore came within a single trey of
breaking a previously thought unbreakable SEC record -- Cornelia Gayden's
single season mark. Willits finished
with 104, shooting 35.7% from the arc.
Ranking top five in the nation in both percentage and production,
Willits was chosen by the Basketball Hall of Fame as its Ed Steitz Award
winner. Her uniform, complete with her
trademark headband, was displayed for the 1999-2000 season at the Basketball
Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Her
senior year, she became the No. 2 three-point scorer in SEC history as well as
the all-time leader at Arkansas. Willits
closed her career at the ESPN College Three-Point Shooting Contest, where she
reached the Final Four.
DROPPING DIMES FOR RECORDS
Point guard Amy Wright started the second century of
Razorback basketball by shattering a once-thought-untouchable record of 186
assists in a season set by Donna Wilson in 1989. Wright's 198 led Arkansas back into the NCAA
Tournament second round in 2001, and left her in striking distance for her
senior season of the all-time leader, Amber Nicholas Shirey. For her final season, Wright not only took
the career record early on, but she broke her own season mark to become the
first woman to go over 200 in a season with 205 and close her career with 717.
SECOND TO ONE, BUT SECOND TO NONE
Hot Springs, Ark., native Shameka Christon finished her
four-year career at Arkansas as the first woman to threaten the all-time
scoring mark of Bettye Fiscus and ended up second all-time with 1,951
points. However, in many ways Christon
was second to none in her Arkansas career with many firsts. Early in her career Christon became the first
Razorback women's basketball player to represent the United States at the World
Championships and the first to win a gold medal on the world stage. As a
senior, she was the first Razorback named Associated Press All-America with her
selection to the third team, surpassing Christy Smith's four times on the AP
team, but as an honorable mention.
Christon also became the first voted SEC Player of the Year (both
coaches and AP), making her the second Razorback to take player of the year
(Delmonica DeHorney in the SWC days).
She closed out her time in Fayetteville by becoming the first Razorback
taken as a first-round draft pick of the WNBA, going fifth overall to the New
York Liberty. Christon added another
first as the first Razorback to make an all-pro team as she was on the WNBA's
Rookie Team in 2004.
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES...
WAS THE WORST OF TIMES
Tom Collen returned as the head coach for the Arkansas
women's basketball team in April 2007.
Inheriting a team that had set the standard for best start to the first
loss with a 15-1 run before setting the standard for futility with a 10-game
losing streak, Collen had no expectations of another streak against a schedule
including key road contests. After the
first win in several years at Missouri, Arkansas came home to face Clemson --
the first ACC team in Walton Arena. Downing
the Tigers, the Razorbacks faced the toughest test with NCAA participant
Marquette in the finals of the Dartmouth tournament. Trailing by eight, Arkansas rallied for a
two-point win. Riding a 14-game streak,
the Razorbacks pummeled former SWC rival Texas Tech to close out the
pre-conference schedule perfect. The
15-0 start broke the in-season winning streak of the 1990-91 SWC Championship
team that set the school record for wins and percentage with a 28-4 finish. The 15 straight games also bested the 11-game
run to close the 1998-99 and start the 1999-2000 season. Behind senior double-double averaging post
player Lauren Ervin, Arkansas looked ready to vault its top 25 AP ranking back
into the NCAA Tournament. Fate had
different plans as Ervin tore her ACL in the SEC opener, ending her career as
the second all-time double-double points-rebound player. The Razorbacks suffered several other
injuries and stumbled to a 2-13 close.
On Jan. 1, 2008, the University of Arkansas brought together
the men's and women's athletic departments.
Starting with the new fiscal year in July 1, 2008, the women's sports
teams dropped the usage of "Lady" and "Lady'Back" nicknames.
BETTER WITH AGE
As the Tom Collen era continues, the Razorbacks showed
steady improvement with each season.
Collen's Razorbacks reached the quarterfinals of the WNIT Tournament in
2010-11 and with a commitment to improving, the team found its way back into
the NCAA Tournament in 2011-12 reaching the second round.
team and coaches felt they had earned a postseason invitation through a great
resume of work amassed over the season but it is a nerve-racking experience
until you see you name on the big board.
Senior Lyndsay Harris commented that she didn't realize just how nervous
she was until she saw "Arkansas" on the screen during the watch party. She was final able to breathe. Arkansas did receive an at-large invitation
and was one of eight SEC schools (nine if you include Texas A&M) to get
into the tournament.
traveled to future SEC member Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, for
their first and second -round games.
opened with Dayton in the first round, meeting the Flyers for the first time in
trailing by 14 three times in the first half, junior Quistelle Williams and
sophomore Keira Peak heated up and Ashley Daniels had 12 rebounds guiding the
Razorbacks to a 75-37 win. It was the
first win in the NCAA Tournament since 2003 and sent Arkansas to at least the
second round for the eighth time in program history.
Razorbacks then had the unenviable task of facing defending national champion
Texas A&M on their home floor in the second round. The storylines were plenty in the match up as
former Razorback head coach Gary Blair and current Arkansas head coach Tom
Collen squared off. Collen was an
assistant head coach under Blair at Arkansas in the 1990's and most of the
Aggie staff had worked at Arkansas.
offense was slow to start - a problem that plagued the team all season. The Razorbacks were down by as much as 14
early with more than 9,000 screaming Aggie fans cheering on the home team.
Arkansas wouldn't go away. The
Razorbacks continued to chip away at the score until tying the game with just
over a minute to play. The teams traded
misses before the Razorbacks fouled an A&M player who was driving the lane.
A&M hit the free throws giving them the two-point advantage with 23.5
seconds left in the game.
used a timeout and drew up the play. The
Razorbacks got an open look but left the shot just short unable to complete the