What a day on Saturday as the SEC got around to conference play with five games and only one road team won - Arkansas.
Welcome back Carl Baker. The 6-8, 210-pound forward had just 4 points in 65 minutes of action this season and had played in just seven games due to ineffective play and then an injury, which he had come back from to score only a single point in 38 minutes and four games.
But Baker broke out in a big way on Saturday in Arkansas' 83-77 win over Auburn with a career-high 17 points. He was 7-of-8 shooting and hit all of three of his 3-pointers. Once he hit that first one (a 3-pointer) - with Arkansas down 34-26 at the time - his whole body language changed and he was off to the races.
"The last week it has seemed like he (Baker) was more relaxed and ready to play," Arkansas head coach Nolan Richardson said. "I thought he was ready to play at Memphis too and he had some important minutes there, but today was just a big break out for him. I guess he got his career high and everything today and he only played 20 minutes He's been our missing piece."
He certainly was the biggest spark on Saturday, the rest of the bench came alive as well. J.J. Sullinger, who loves playing with the opposing crowd, had 16, Charles Tatum 8 , T.J. Cleveland 5 and Alonzo Lane 2.
Larry Satchell had three blocks - although he was only credited with one - on a day when Auburn's 6-10 Kyle Davis, the league's leading shot blocker, didn't play because of a hyperextended elbow.
The Arkansas bench outscored Auburn's 48-17, a far cry from the anemic eight points it scored in Arkansas' loss to Oklahoma State back on Dec. 22.
The Razorbacks had 10 steals while forcing 20 turnovers and shot 52.6 percent from the field, including 58.6 percent in the first half. Arkansas got down 34-22 and then went on a 24-3 run that spanned both halves to turn the game around. It extended to a 30-7 spree to make it 52-41 Arkansas before Auburn made a run.
For the second road game in a row, Arkansas took a punch, got off the ropes and decked the hosts. This is a team that has no fear, believes in each other and if they continue to shoot the ball well are going to go dancing in March.
This tough non-conference schedule might have been the best thing in the world for the Razorbacks, who would live to have won one of those four games against foes now ranked in the top 25.
"This year we are a much better road team," Baker said. "We played some ranked teams earlier in the year and had a chance to win. That gave us a lot of confidence going into the SEC schedule."
Arkansas - winners of five of six - now hosts Mississippi State (14-1, 1-0) on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN. The Bulldogs got down 21-2 at home, but roared back to take out Kentucky 74-69 in overtime.
That's all just fine and dandy with young Mr. Sullinger, who welcomes the challenge.
"They beat Kentucky and I am sure they are going to be high, but that doesn't mean they are going to beat us," Sullinger said. "If we do what we know we can do and keep working hard, I feel real good about our chances."
In other SEC games:
Mississippi State 74, Kentucky 69 (OT)
Alabama 76, LSU 74
Georgia 83, Vanderbilt 69
Florida 69, South Carolina 60
Ole Miss plays at Tennessee, 12:30 p.m.
I got to listen to the end of the LSU-Alabama game which had LSU leading by 8 with 4:01 left, but then didn't score again. LSU's next game - with Arkansas next Sunday at either 12:30 or 3 p.m. - depending on the NFL schedule.