The Road Is Calling

It has been several years since the basketball Arkansas program has been even average on ther road, but senior forward Coty Clarke believes that is going to change this season for the Razorbacks (11-2) as they get ready for their first road test this season Wednesday night at Texas A&M (9-4).

Arkansas will take an 11-2 record and a seven-game winning streak into Wednesday night's SEC opener at Texas A&M, but there's still one big question out there for most fans.

Can this Razorback team – who is 2-18 on the road the past two seasons and just 9-48 the past six seasons – actually have success on the road?

"The wheels are already turning," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said after Saturday night's 104-71 destruction of UTSA. " My mind is set already toward A&M and getting the opportunity to open up on the road down at Texas A&M.

" We opened up down there last year and I told our guys this has nothing to do with what took place down there last year," Anderson added. "Different year and a different team. That's the key, take this show and take it on down the road."

It seems appropriate that it will be Texas A&M (9-4) up first for evidence of that – seeing as how the Razorbacks played arguably their worst game last season in a 69-51 conference opening-loss in College Station.

A&M out-rebounded Arkansas 51-27 in the aforementioned game – something that has stuck with senior forward Coty Clarke.

"Getting out-rebounded, just being dominated on the boards," Clarke said. "They played more physical than us and, of course, me and my teammates, we let them down by getting into foul trouble and forcing too small a guys to be in the post and not quite have the bodies to bang with those guys and box them out. It really hurt us and put us at a disadvantage.

"But now we have multiple guys that can get in there and get rebounds," Clarke added. "Even if two guys go out, we still have guys that can maintain it on. The key is bringing the mental focus and just playing. Don't play conservative. Just play how we always play." Indeed Arkansas will take Clarke and three new inside guys – 6-6, 230-pound junior Alandise Harris and 6-10 freshmen big men Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley in to College Station this season.

Those guys combined for 43 points, 19 rebounds, 9 steals and 5 blocks in the win over University of Texas-San Antonio.

"It starts with everybody, but mainly it starts with us protecting the paint and getting rebounds, making plays at the end of the day," Clarke said.

Texas A&M broke a two-game losing streak on Saturday with a 63-46 win over Texas-Pan American with former Searcy star and Wynne native Jamal Jones tossing in a team-high 16 points.

The Aggies have been offensively challenged this season and lost 61-41 to North Texas at home in their previous game.

But Clarke – averaging 8.2 points and 5.3 rebounds this season – knows there are many who won't believe in the Razorbacks are for real until they win a road game.

"It just comes with the territory and the mental aspect," Clarke said. "Going around all you hear is road this, road that….When it gets here you will know that we have fixed that. It is going to change in order to be what we are going to be."

Clarke is certain his team is more mentally and physically tougher this season and plays better together.

"It just the trust and how the communication level is higher than what it has been in the past years," Clarke said. "Just that mental aspect of the game and coming together and not trying to just go get it yourself. You have a group of guys that can make a play every time down so there is no one person to key on.

"You have to key on all five people out on the court," Clarke added. "That expands and gives us the floor space to show our God-given ability."

Anderson believes he has quality leadership on his team this season.

"It goes back to the leadership on this team guys like Coty and *(fellow senior co-captain) Kikko (Haydar) and even Bobby," Anderson said. "You see those guys always engaged trying to get our guys to play at a certain level we have to play at. "

Clarke said that he and fellow senior co-captain Haydar are likely to talk to the team before Wednesday's game, but it's about actions and not words.

"We do what we do as a team," Clarke said. "I am sure we are going to get together and people are going to bring it up. Like we say all the time, it is us preparing and it is us out there playing. Coach can teach us what we need to do, but we have to do it.

"If we have to make a change during the game or before it, we have to do it," Clarke added. "That's what we have to do. We (the players) have to win the game."

Coty Clarke

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