Arkansas has won seven of eight games since a 2-6 start to climb into many of the speculative NCAA tournament brackets, but head coach Mike Anderson thinks his players know where to focus -- on practice.
"Well, first of all, those guys have never been into any tournament or anything," Anderson said Monday afternoon. "They don't know what goes into all that, so the most important thing for them is to control ... Let's control what we can control, and that is today's practice. Let's go out and get better.
"That's been our mindset all year long. And so, as we get to this part of the year, we're not going to change.
"Even as outside sources keep talking and saying this here, just follow my lead. I want them to see if through my eyes."
The Hogs play host to Ole Miss, a team senior Kikko Haydar pointed out is pretty good against the Razorbacks. Rebels head coach Andy Kennedy has won four straight in Bud Walton Arena, including three in a row on Arkansas senior night.
"Yeah," Haydar said, "I've never beat Ole Miss, so we're definitely aware of that. Never."
Senior Fred Gulley knows that Kennedy would like to ruin another Arkansas senior night. But he looks at some of the other streaks the Hogs have ended this year -- like winning at Kentucky last week.
"There's been a few other statistics in that the past Arkansas hasn't been able to overcome that we have this year so far," Gulley said. "We're a new team. We don't really look back at the past.
" We just try to handle the things we can control. So we're going to come out here and continue to play the basketball we're playing and hopefully it ends with a W."
That's Anderson's goal, just put one foot in front of the other and follow the old coaching adage of taking it one game at a time.
"So, the next game is a big game," Anderson said. "That's why I always say, the games are bigger. Well, we've got two games and they get real big. So, let's control that.
"So, let's get ready for Ole Miss and that's all we talk about. And if we do what we're supposed to do, then everything will line up and fall in place."
The Hogs close the regular season on the road at Alabama on Saturday. Would two victories get the Hogs back in the NCAA tournament?
"If we take care of business, we'll be where we need to be."
Does he feel a hunger to be back in the Big Dance? Anderson paused before he answered and seemed to set his jaw before saying, "I'm used to being in postseason play."
First, the Hogs have to face an Kennedy coached team that has been successful in Bud Walton Arena.
""Well, the only one I remember was two years ago," Anderson said. "I mean, they stole one. They did, they actually stole one. It's the game where we led, and I thought we just had a meltdown where we just kind of handed the ball to them.
"We had the ball, and I think we ended up turning it over right there at the end. But they came in and stole one, so that's the only one I remember. But they played well.
"I mean, he had some seniors on that team. He had some guys that ... I just thought they were a little tougher than we were. This year, they bring a very good basketball team over here.
"They've had problems on the road, like everybody in our league has problems on the road. But they've been very good at home. They've been very good at home, and like you said, they've played well here, so we'll have our work cut out for us."
The task starts with defending bomber Marshall Henderson.
"Well, first, you want to keep the ball out of his hands, if at all possible you can," Anderson said. "But, with the way we play, he's going to be open.
"There's no question, he's going to be open. But we've got to make sure we've got people with a hand in his face. If he's making it from 40 feet, he's got to shoot it from 50 feet. I mean, that's got to be the solution for that. Because one thing about him, he has no conscience.
"An open shot is an open shot for him. Whereas for most guys, it's a wide-open shot. He can make contested shots, and so he's big part of what they do.
"But, I think Jarvis (Summers) is just as dangerous as well. Because he can get in the lane and create. But they do run a lot of stuff for Henderson.
"For the most part, he's broken Pat Bradley's record in the years he's been there. What is it? Two years? That's pretty strong there. Again, we've got our work cut out. We've got to locate him and got to make him put it on the floor and just make him take tough shots."
Henderson averages 19.2 points, Summers 17.2. No one else is close to double figures. They both average 30 minutes per game and the next Rebels is at 22 per game.
Gulley has learned to expect the unexpected from the emotional Henderson.
"He's an exciting player," Gulley said. "You never know what you are going to get from him. You never know what to expect.
"You got to expect the unexpected. We hope that he comes in here and we play good defense and shut him down and kind of rattle him. We know we will have a good crowd and have a lot of people here to support us.
"It's a tough atmosphere for anyone to come in and play in, especially with how our defense has been playing recently. It will be good, be good to get out there and challenge him."
Haydar knows everyone in Bud Walton will know Henderson.
"I think anyone who is on the television knows about Marshall Henderson," Haydar said. "He's going to come in and he's going to shoot the ball and he's going to make shots.
"But that's not all Ole Miss has to offer. They have a lot of other players. They have very good players. It's going to be a tough game. But, we are confident in ourselves, in the way we've been playing. We are ready to go."
Hogs Taking it One at a Time
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