Razorbacks Hoping To Tame Terriers

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson is very aware he is facing a Wofford team that is having the best season in the school's history as the Razorbacks (26-8) prepare to meet the Terriers (28-6) in the NCAA Tournament Thursday night at 8:50 p.m. in Jacksonville, Fla.

Arkansas goes into its first NCAA tournament in seven years as a fifth seed, a six-point favorite and a team that is expected by most to play North Carolina in the second round.

But the SEC runner-up Razorbacks (26-8) will also face a 12th-seeded foe in Southern Conference champ Wofford (28-6) Thursday night in Jacksonville, Fla., that has plenty of tournament experience.

There is also plenty of tournament history of 12 seeds knocking off 5 seeds so the Terriers will be darlings of those filling out brackets and looking for upsets.

“I think all of them (underdogs) are dangerous, “ Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “Because why? It's a one-game setting. You think about it, the favorite is supposed to win. The guys that are underdogs, they've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. So what happen in in those games is, they come out and just play basketball.”

This is the best season ever for Wofford, who set records for both overall and conference wins.

“These guys (Wofford) are champions of their league,” Anderson added. “These guys come in with a lot of confidence, as we come in with a lot of confidence. And we just lost in our championship game. So you put five guys out there at a time, and anything can take place."

Arkansas and Wofford – who has been to four of the last six NCAA Tournaments - will meet in an 8:50 p.m. matchup as the last of the day’s four games at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

Michigan eliminated Wofford last season in the first round, but the Terriers’ top seven all contributed in that game and thus have NCAA Tournament experience that the Razorback don’t.

“Well for them it is a comfort level,” Anderson said. “For us it just going out and getting comfortable. They are comfortable and we have to go out and get comfortable.

“When you play the way you have been doing it all year long, you don't change anything,” Anderson added. “You get to this part of the year I want our guys to turn up the volume even more, turn up the intensity defensively, offensively as well. The bench has to really get involved."

The two teams have met only one time in history with the Razorbacks downing the Terriers 67-45 in 2007 at Bud Walton Arena.

Wofford has won eight straight games and 15 of its last 16 with wins over North Carolina State and Iona, but lop-sided losses to Duke, Stanford and West Virginia.

The Terriers do have balanced scoring and shoot 45.8 percent from the field, 37.6 percent from 3-point range and 68.9 percent from the free throw line, but not much height and have no one on the active roster over 6-7.

The team is headed up by a starting five of 6-1 senior guard Karl Cochran (14.6, 5.8), 6-4 junior guard Spencer Collins (11.6), 6-6 senior forward Lee Skinner (10.0), 6-0 sophomore guard Eric Garcia (7.8) and 6-6 junior forward Justin Gordon (7.6).

“They are a team that's mid-sized,” Anderson said. “They have some great guards. They have some 6-6 post guys. So that tells me that they are a versatile basketball team and they want to really execute their half court offense.

“They have multiple guys that can shoot the basketball, especially from the perimeter,” Anderson added. “That is something we haven't really done a good job all year long. At times we have done a good job of covering the perimeter but we are going to really have to be on task on our assignments and continue to play basketball the way we have been playing.”

Anderson has had a day to reflect on Sunday’s 78-63 loss to No. 1 Kentucky in the SEC Tournament championship as well as the program’s invited to the Big Dance.

“I think it's big,” Anderson said. “Coming back home on the plane ride, when all the things took place yesterday, a lot too place yesterday. First of all we are in the championship game of the SEC Tournament. We lose to an outstanding Kentucky team, and you are disappointed in that. We do the watch party there right by the airport at a restaurant.

“Our guys are excited but still in my mind I am thinking about what took place,” Anderson added. “But as we flew home and I got a chance to reflect on what took place, we were in a conference playing the best team in the country and we finished right behind them in the conference race and we finished second in the tournament.

“These guys have done a very good job,” Anderson continued. “I don't think these guys are ready to stop playing. I really don't think we have played our best basketball yet. I just saw some glimpses the other day against Kentucky even being down, that I know if we play with that kind of mindset, that kind of tenacity, a lot of good things will continue to happen.” Anderson believes his team will have success in the tournament.

“I really believe it is going to play out to be a special year for these guys,” Anderson said. “But when I reflect on what has taken place right now, I had to even take a moment to tell those guys that I am so proud of what you guys have done, through adversity, starting out the season and through the whole season they have done what I asked the to do.

“They have seen it through my eyes, they have taken it one game at a time,” Anderson added. “So as we get to this stage here, somebody asked me that we don't have any guys with experience of being in the tournament. And that is true. So hopefully they will see it through my eyes and continue just to take it one day at a time one game at a time.”

Anderson expects this to be the first of a run of NCAA Tournaments for his program.

“I got a text from (former Razorback) Coty Clarke, he is playing overseas and he actually was on Face Time watching the guys at the watch party,” Anderson said. “ He said, 'Congratulations, Coach on the seed and going to the tournament’ and my text to him was, 'Thanks, you set the foundation. Your team set the foundation. I thought that team last year, it was almost there.

“And these guys this year took almost and made it happen,” Anderson added. “Just the experience of it. You go from Year One, just the experience factor that has taken place. You have to go through some things to get where you want to go. We are at a stage now where we talk about dancing, but we want to do more than just get there.”

Rashad Madden

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