One night after losing a 90-86 home game to an Auburn team that had lost seven straight coming in, Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson was as frustrated and upset as his program’s fans about the Razorbacks play during a current three-game losing streak.
“Well the sun came up and I think that’s probably a good thing because I had kind of a sleepless night after a performance like that,” Anderson said. “It was one where I thought we tried basically to win the game with our offense against Auburn and they shot the ball well. And as we have with a lot of close games, we didn’t do the things necessary to finish the game off. We had some mental breakdowns especially defensively, throughout the game and in critical situations. And getting to the free throw line, you have got to make free throws.”
Anderson, who has never had a losing season in his 13 previous years as a head coach, was asked if the struggling stretch and season was wearing on him as the Razorbacks (12-14, 5-8) get ready to honor former coach Eddie Sutton and host Missouri (10-16, 3-10) Saturday night at 6:30 p.m.
“It's no question about it,”Anderson said. “You know my teams normally play some of their better basketball this time of the year and I still think this team is capable of doing it. Now will we do it? That remains to be seen, but we're going to have opportunity.
“We’ve got a Missouri team coming in here we played earlier in the year. I want to see us put together one of those performances we had against Tennessee. I thought that was one of our better performances defensively and offensively.
“…I mean they've battled. To be e at this stage here Im not worried necessarily about..I want to see us get better. That's my focus right now. You know the record is what it is but I think we still could, with a 5 game season, I think there's still a lot of things out there for this team.”
Arkansas drilled Missouri 94-61 in Columbia back on Jan. 21 in the Razorbacks’ only true road win of the year.
The Tigers have struggled through its season until the last two games hen it has won home games over Tennessee and South Carolina, the later after dismissing leading scorer Wes Clark.
“They're minus one of their players in Wes Clark and I think that's kind of brought those guys together,” Anderson said. “They’re a much better basketball team now (than first game). That was early in the year. That was a month and a half ago.”
"There are probably a lot of firsts, especially since we only won three last year. We won two at the end, but now that you bring it up, yes, it is the first time. These guys have worked really hard. They were unbelievably ready to play tonight and I thought it showed, especially at the beginning, and they didn't panic when they got down there at the end.
“A couple weeks ago we would have lost that game, maybe by ten points. I think it says something about the maturity level that our guys have gotten to at this point, but we have to keep going. We don't have a lot of time to celebrate. I was really proud of them.”
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin praised the play of Missouri after Tuesday night’s game.
"I am really happy for Kim and his kids,” Martin said. “ I have been in that situation; we've been in that situation a couple years ago, when your kids continue to fight and deal with adversity. Obviously, the win/loss column is something a lot of people on the outside pay attention to, but on the inside you're trying to stay connected with your players to make sure they are doing things the right way.
“ Missouri is definitely doing things the right way. He is playing all freshmen and sophomores and they have battled, so a lot of credit to them for completely outplaying us today.”
One of the big pluses for Missouri has been the play of senior center Ryan Rosburg (6-10, 260), who has scored over 17 points in each of his last four games and getting to the free throw line a whopping 17 times while scoring a team-leading points against South Carolina.
“Well he's getting opportunity and I think, I'm sure, a lot of things go through him,” Anderson said. …And he's a recipient you know of a lot of penetration and dishing. He's finishing at the rim and now he's starting to shoot free throws. He's playing with a lot of confidence. He's a senior. He's one of the older guys there so it's one of those things it's coming to him and he's taking upon the challenge and the opportunity and relishing it.”