Refocused Razorbacks

After a players only meeting, Arkansas heads into the SEC Tournament on Thursday with a mindset of winning the whole thing and not letting the NCAA Tournament selection committee determine its Big Dance fate.

ATLANTA – Arkansas fans were horrified on Saturday with their team's 25-point loss at Alabama, but none more than the Razorbacks themseleves.

That's why after Arkansas (21-10) returned home from Tuscaloosa, there was a players only meeting Tuesday to make sure that the team that plays Thursday afternoon at the Georgia Dome will be the one that had won six straight instead of the one that no-showed in the regular season finale.

"It's very important," sophomore forward Michael Qualls said. "That is why we are here – to get wins...We had a team meeting and we weren't mentally focused against Alabama. But that's good. It humbled us and made us focused on the prize. We are going to come out and play Arkansas basketball.

"...It (the meeting) was after practice and before we got on the plane to come here," Qualls added. "It was basically just between us – where do we want to go, what do we want to do. Basically it was just a brotherhood meeting. That is what we are going to need on the court to prevail – a brotherhood."

Arkansas senior forward Coty Clarke – a co-captain along with senior Kikko Haydar - elaborated on why he called the meeting.

"I called it just to touch base with everybody and let them know that we are moving forward," Clarke said. "It is a new season...I just wanted to get everybody on the same page and with the same mindset that we need to win these games."

The fifth-seeded Razorbacks will play Thursday at 2:30 CST 13th-seeded South Carolina (13-19, 5-13).

"Our guys are going to be ready to play," Anderson said. "Coty and Mike said it best – we got humbled. Sometimes a pat on the back can set you back. I think for the most part our guys have been playing some pretty good basketball and I think we just kind of ran into a hornet's nest to tell you the truth. It was kind of like one of those trap games.

"...We'll be ready," Anderson said. "We'll be ready to leave it on the floor...Physically and mentally they are ready to play."

Anderson was pleased when he heard about the team meeting.

"It is part of guys taking ownership," Anderson said. "They felt bad about Alabama. They really did. You can imagine (Alabama native) Coty – he's going home and playing at home and I didn't think he played very well. He is one of the leaders of your team. For them to do that, it tells me that maybe they are growing up a little bit. We'll find out if it worked."

Arkansas is also very interested in winning their first SEC Tournament game since 2008 - the last time they made the NCAA Tournament.

Senior Fred Gulley – the only player on the Arkansas roster to have played in an NCAA Tournament game as he did as a freshman at Oklahoma State – pushes aside the failures of others.

"We try not to focus too much on the streaks of the past because we are a different team and we are playing a new brand of basketball and we are ready to come out here and play our style of play and get to the next game," Gulley said.

Anderson did the same and notes the goal has to be to win all four games and grab the league's automatic bid instead of winning one or two and waiting to see what the selection committee decides.

"We enter a new season and that is the SEC Tournament and it is a tremendous opportunity for our basketball team to hopefully get a spot in the NCAA Tournament," Anderson said. "The automatic qualifier comes from this tournament and that's our goal coming in.

"We feel like we have been playing some pretty good basketball, but the last time out we have a bad taste in our mouth from going on the road to Alabama," Anderson added. "This is a new season and it is all that we have talked about and our focus is on the first game."

Clarke doesn't feel like the Alabama loss was because his team fell in love with 3-pointers after hitting 17 of them in a 110-80 win over Ole Miss the game before.

"Not at all," Clarke said. "I think when we don't get ball movement and it doesn't go inside-out then we tend to settle for jumpers. I think we did it for a couple of games in the past. That is something that we have to stop doing and we have to go inside out and fast break. It is a part of our offense – to get a lot of fast break points, but we were stagnant in the halfcourt. That will change and we are going to play attack basketball."





Michael Qualls posterizes a defender earlier this season.


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