Road Rage

Arkansas will try again to grab its first win on the road this season when the Razorbacks (14-9, 5-5) travel to face Auburn (9-14, 3-7) Wednesday at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network.

Mike Anderson knows full well the extreme difference in how his team plays at home and on road and that differencve was never on display more than it was last week.

The Razorbacks had then-No. 2 Florida down 27 points on Tuesday on ESPN before dispatching the Gators with ease 80-69 at Bud Walton Arena while running their home record to 14-1.

But then Arkansas turned around and went on the road – where they are 0-8 this season – and especially flopped 67-49 to a lowly Vanderbilt team that had lost four games in a row and is 330th in the country in scoring this season.

"You talk about games being different," Anderson said. "Obviously our game coming from the Florida to the Vandy games were different games. That's the difference between playing at home and on the road with our basketball team.

"...There's an old saying that a pat on the back can set you back," Anderson added. "...(The) Coach can say and do all he can but I always tell our guys, 'Don't believe the hype.' And of course we go into Vanderbilt and I thought we didn't bring that same intensity."

Arkansas (14-9, 5-5) will take another shot on the road on Wednesday when it visits Auburn (9-14, 3-7) in an 8 p.m. game televised by the SEC Network.

"We have to play for 40 minutes," Anderson said. "We have to get off to a good start and be in the game throughout the game. We have to shoot the ball well and get to the free throw line as much as they do. We have to take care of the basketball. But you have to put the ball in the hole and you have to defend, obviously. Our defense was not as sharp (against Vanderbilt) as it was against Florida. They (the Commodores) got a lot of slips to the basket."

Anderson acknowledged that his team has to get some mental toughness.

"It's a process," Anderson said. "You have to have some mentally tough kind of guys to go on the road and win. Not only that, you have to have some coaches on the floor. That leadership can't sit on the bench and (junior forward) Marshawn (Powell) was sitting on the bench in that particular game. I think about as a player, even coaching here, the players are the guys that really make it happen on the road."

Anderson notes that his team has to start digging out of a hole on the road as a team and not digging the hole deeper trying to do too much as an individual.

"When you're young, no question about it, when adversity takes place, individuals try to do it and the hole you're in, you end up deeper in the hole," Anderson said. "I think it's a combination of not only that, but teams are pretty good and they play well at home. Basketball is a game of confidence."

Razorback junior guard Mardracus Wade – who hit two 3-pointers to start the game at Vanderbilt - is certain his team is going to break through on the road sometime soon.

"I think we have just got to stay focused throughout the game and keep our head, and do the things that kept us in the game – which is defending, limiting seconds shots, stop fouling and putting guys on the free throw line," Wade said.

The Razorbacks beat the Tigers 88-80 in double overtime in Fayetteville back on Jan. 16.

"I imagine it is going to be another highly contested game where both teams are going to be clawing, fighting and scratching to find a way to win," Anderson said. "They will be defending home court and obviously we want to try and win a game on the road. We haven't had success doing that but I still think we are progressing in the right direction."

Anderson is not happy with the road woes, but also is not surprised at them.

"I explained it earlier in the year," Anderson said. "It's a process you have to go through. When you come in and rebuild your program, you're trying to do it the right way. As painful as it is, you have to go through it. We can sit up here and talk about it all day long. There's a breakthrough and I think we're closer to that breakthrough than we have been all year. Now it's just a matter of going out and doing it."

One thing that can certainly not happen is for Powell to again get in foul trouble as he has done in road games at Texas A&M, South Carolina, Alabama and Vanderbilt.

"As you move in games, the sense of urgency picks up," Anderson said. "Sometimes you want to do something so bad. But he's got to be smart enough to know when and when not to, especially with some of the fouls he's getting."

The fact that Powell (14.7) and sophomore guard B.J. Young (16.1) combined for just 12 points was a recipe for disaster on the road per Anderson.

"Not many games you're going to have BJ and Marshawn combine for 12 points and have a chance to win," Anderson said. "Unless it's a just a game where everybody else is lights out. They're responsible for about 30 points a game. We scored 49 last game. We just didn't shoot the ball well. We have to get more productivity out of those guys."

Powell had 28 points and 11 rebounds in the first game with Auburn this season while BJ Young added 22.

"He (Powell) was the recipient of some nice passes," Anderson said. "We really attacked the zone. Hunter (Mickelson) gave him some nice passes down low and he stepped out and made a couple of shots. And we got some in transition. He was active in that game."

Auburn – whose only win in the last eight games was a 47-33 home win over Alabama - played the first Arkansas game without guard Chris Denson (11.8).

Denson joins 6-1 senior guard Frankie Sullivan (15.7) and 7-foot senior Rob Chubb (9.3, 7.2) to give the Tigers some legit scoring threats.

That being said, Auburn has scored over 62 points in only two of its last eight games and Sullivan – who had 26 points in the game against Arkansas – has struggled shooting the ball since the Arkansas game while shooting just 33 percent from the field.

Sullivan was benched for Denson late in a 72-62 loss at Kentucky on Saturday.

"He hasn't been playing well, so I've got to do something to get his attention," Barbee said. "He didn't play well in the Kentucky game, made some bad decisions offensively and made some bad decisions defensively, so it's time to look at somebody else at that position. "He's still part of the team and part of the lineup and all those things, but he hasn't been playing well enough to warrant the minutes or opportunities that he's been getting. So now it's time to give somebody else a look. Chris Denson's been playing the last two games so I'm going to give him a look at that position for extended minutes and see if he can hold on to it."

Barbee's team had been showing a lack of fight before that loss at Kentucky and that prompted some tough comments from the coach.

"I told the guys I'm embarrassed to say I coach this team, and the majority of it is on me. My fault," Barbee ranted. "I told them, I'm going to do my job to change it, and I need you guys to do your job and change, because it hasn't been enough."

They responded to his outburst with the win over Alabama and a better effort at Kentucky.

"I'm proud of the way our guys competed," Barbee said. "It's the only way our guys were going to survive, especially against a team as talented and well coached as Kentucky is so I am proud of the way our guys fought."

It was thought that Auburn would be without 6-8 freshman forward Jordan Granger – a high school teammate of Young's – for taking a punch at Kentucky's Archie Goodwin after Goodwin pushed him.

Granger was given a flagrant two technical and ejected while Goodwin was given a personal foul and a technical, but Granger was cleared by the SEC to play on Monday.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories