Two teams that are coming off a pair of embarrassing losses each last week will try to right ships taking on water Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas (12-13, 5-7) – who lost two games by a combined 47 points last week – will host Auburn (9-15, 3-9), who lost its two outings by a total of 56 points, in a 6 p.m. game that will be televised by the SEC Network.
“It (Auburn) is a team that is going to play with a sense of urgency and we certainly need to play with a sense of urgency coming off a tough week last week,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said.
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl, whose team was 6-3 at one point this season and had a home win over Kentucky, has lost six straight and 12 of its last 15 games heading into what he expects will be a tough game at Bud Walton Arena.
“Well, going to Arkansas is a tough place to play, they are 11-3 at home, terrific 3-point shooting team and their roster is diverse and there are times they can play big,” Pearl said. “Recently they have been playing small and spread you out.
“You have got to take care of the ball against Arkansas because of the way they press and I am sure they will get after us and try to turn us over.”
It is the first of three straight home games for the Razorbacks with Missouri due in Saturday night and LSU next Tuesday.
Arkansas shot just 22 percent in a 78-46 loss at Mississippi State and then just 18 percent in the second half of a 76-60 loss at Ole Miss in which the Razorbacks led by two points at halftime.
“I think we are a much better shooting team than we displayed in the last two games,” Anderson said. “You have to give credit to those teams but our guys have got to do a better job of getting open and moving without the basketball and not letting that have an effect on our defense.
Arkansas was also drubbed on the boards 47-29 at Ole Miss so Anderson may make a switch in his starting line up to help in that respect.
He also is likely to give 6-4 freshman Jimmy Whitt more playing time after two solid efforts last week.
"I thought one of the bright spots in both games, was a guy like Jimmy Whitt really coming on,” Anderson said. “We have got to get some more size out there to combat the rebounding because people are attacking the glass on us.”
The Tigers have struggled with injuries and inconsistent play and are coming off a 71-45 road loss to Tennessee and an 86-57 home loss to Vanderbilt.
Part of that is because Auburn is down three points guards with T.J. Dunans and Tahj Shamsid-Deen out with season-ending injuries and leading scorer and assist guy Kareem Canty leaving the team and announcing he will put his name in the NBA draft.
Pearl has even taken to playing 6-7, 250-pound power forward Cimmeon Bowers at point guard. He had 12 points and 15 rebounds in the loss to Vanderbilt.
"Well, we're down two or three point guards for one reason or another,” Pearl said. “Cim is probably our next-best ball-handler, playmaker. Behind him I'm playing a walk-on, Pat Keim. Behind Pat, I am playing New Williams, a freshman, who is more of an off guard.
“We really don’t have a lot of options at point guard and I anticipate Arkansas really trying to get after us, press us and turn us over.”
Anderson said that is precisley what he hopes happens.
“It’s tougher on the kids because as a coach," Pearl said. "I've coached a lot of years and this is the second time I've lost in all the years I've been a head coach. 21?
"But for the kids, the student-athletes, this is going to be the last year for the seniors. I feel bad for Jordon Granger and Cimmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris because this last year will be the year that those guys will remember.
All three are graduating, all three are going to do really good things when they are done, but I would say it is harder on the players than the coaches.”
Anderson notes that his team is just trying to put last week in the rearview mirror with six regular season games left with four of them at home.
“I just thing the Mississippi State game was just one of those games that you talk about burning up the tape,” Anderson said. “We started off and I think the game was 12-11 at one point in time and then it seemed like a lid came on the basket.
“Every now and then you are going to have a game like that and everything Mississippi State threw up, it was going in.
“…I thought we came back against an Ole Miss team that was trumped up and playing at home and I thought our kids fought, I thought they really did.
“But we didn’t make shots in the second half and you have to make shots on the road and we didn’t. I thought they took advantage of it going to the glass – the offensive glass – and I thought that was a big difference in that game.”