Since they put themselves behind the NCAA Tournament 8-ball with home losses to Florida and Missouri, Arkansas certainly can't rest on the laurels of its 77-75 break through road win at Vanderbilt last Saturday.
Missouri, on the other hand, certainly can't afford to drop one at home as it is riding a three-game losing streak and sees it's Big Dance hopes getting slimmer.
That's the stage set for Thursday night at 6 p.m. when the Razorbacks (15-8, 4-6) visit the Tigers (16-7, 4-6) in a game that will be televised by ESPN.
"I think our guys have been working hard, so having an opportunity to get a win on the road, I'm sure for those guys it was big," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said of his team's first road win this season. "But at the same time, it's one of those deals where it's on to the next game.
"They know there are eight more games left, so that one's history," Anderson said. "Now we've got to get prepared to go on the road again. But it was a short ride home coming from Nashville."
Missouri downed Arkansas 75-71 in overtime back on Jan. 28 inside Bud Walton Arena in a game where the Tigers dominated the boards 42-26.
Ernest Ross and Jabari Brown both had 24 points in the win while Jordan Clarkson added 11 points and Jonathan Williams grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Rashad Madden had 20 points to lead the Razorbacks while Bobby Portis – just named the SEC's Freshman of the Week - and Michael Qualls added 16 each.
"They came in and did what they had to do in order to steal a win," Anderson said. "Their guards are really dynamic… But I thought the guys that keyed their win here were the big kids - Williams and (Ryan) Rosburg (8 points, 9 rebounds). I thought they did a good job of really controlling the boards."
Missouri has not won a game since that contest in Fayetteville as the Tigers have lost a home game to Kentucky (84-79) and road games at Florida (78-68) and Ole Miss (91-88).
"It's going to be a big game," Anderson said. "Obviously they play well at home, but hopefully we'll go in and do the things we have to do in order to try to steal one back."
Anderson feels like his team will compete hard at the place he was coaching before leaving to take the Razorback post.
"Sometimes experience is your greatest teacher," Anderson said. " And we've been playing pretty good. Our guys have been competitive. We just hadn't been able to get over the hump.
"You look at the games that we've played on the road, we've been in every game with the exception of probably the first game at A&M, where missed a lot of layups," Anderson added. The LSU game, we spotted them 15, and we played without two of our better players.
"…If you look at the other games we've played, we've been right there with a chance," Anderson continued. "A possession here and a possession there. So I just think it's a continuance. And of course, once you get over that hurdle, it hopefully instills some confidence."
Anderson thinks he has a better team than the one that played Missouri back earlier this season.
"I think our defense has been better, and the finishing part of defense is getting in and rebounding the basketball," Anderson said. "I think our defense has been causing some chaos and of course the last game we shot the ball well. Defense has kept us in it, and now hopefully it's a sign of things really coming together where we put the ball in the hole."
Portis (6-10, 242) was a named the SEC's Freshman of the Week on Monday for the third time this season after averaging 21.5 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in two games.
That was in large part because of his 35-point, 9-rebound, 6-block performance in a 65-58 win over Alabama last Wednesday that broke Scotty Thurman's freshman school record of 34.
"I think Bobby gives us a presence inside, and we're using it," Anderson said. "We're utilizing an inside-out format, and that makes the shots a little bit easier."
Portis – who has started all 23 games and leads the team in scoring (13.1) and rebounding (6.6) - then added 8 points and 5 rebounds on Saturday.
He was 14-of-17 from the field against Alabama and 3-of-8 against Vanderbilt.
"Bobby is a facilitator," Anderson said. "Going into that game, he had just scored 35, and you know he was going to be the target. I thought Vanderbilt really paid a lot of attention to him, and we still found him with the basketball, but he was able to facilitate and get the ball to other people.
"I guess you could say he was a decoy for the most part," Anderson added. "So our guys were able to really gather up and knock some shots down, we were able to attack the basket on Vanderbilt.
"And then that shows you again, the maturity of him as a player," Anderson continued. "Most guys, if they get 35 one night, guess what? They're trying to get 35 the next night. But Bobby does whatever it takes to win. That's a tribute to the young man."
Anderson envisions Portis getting better as he gets stronger.
"He's fundamental," Anderson said. "I think he does a lot of good things. I still want him to be a little bit stronger with the ball around the basket. He's getting to the free throw line and knocking his free throws down. He's a versatile forward, and his confidence is pretty high right now."
Rashad Madden scores in the earlier game against Missouri.
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