Arkansas Adds Road Win To Resume

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' 62-52 win at Missouri was bigger than ending an 0-for-18 streak against four other major conferences.

Razorbacks coach Stan Heath believes it could be a plus on Selection Sunday when the NCAA Tournament field is announced.

Heath talked to his team about the importance of nonconference road wins on tournament resumes and the Razorbacks (6-1) responded with a focused effort and a consistency down the stretch against the Tigers to keep making plays and hitting free throws.

Road wins of any kind count with the selection committee. Alabama was ranked in the top 25 throughout the 2000-01 season but was left out of the NCAA field despite a 21-10 record, mostly because the Crimson Tide was 0-8 on the road in conference play with no significant nonconference wins.

Arkansas is currently on a nine-game road losing streak in the SEC dating to March 5, 2003 at Auburn.

Looking ahead to Arkansas' next six opponents, the Razorbacks should be 12-1 -- matching their win total of last season -- when Southeastern Conference play starts Jan. 5 against Ole Miss in Fayetteville.

"This game has some significance and can pay some dividends down the road," Heath said. "Winning on the road against a quality opponent can do nothing but help you. You never know.

"If you're on the bubble, if you're wherever you are, these games can really help you."

Heath pointed to the Razorbacks' play in the closing moments as he drew up new schemes and watched his team make them work.

"We had to make adjustments, especially late in the game, that we hadn't worked on," Heath said. "We did some different things on traps, we switched some things we hadn't worked on and the players carried it out and executed. That's a credit to them."

Junior guard Eric Ferguson, who hit Arkansas' only 3-pointer with 3:29 remaining to put Arkansas ahead 50-44, said the win at Missouri was the best road win of his career.

Of course he doesn't have a lot to choose from.

The Razorbacks were 2-17 on the road in Heath's first two seasons with a win at Vanderbilt near the end of the 2002-03 season and at Tulsa on Nov. 30, 2003.

Arkansas' struggles on the road and against other major conferences go back long before Heath's arrival.

Nearly six years had passed since Arkansas' last win at home or on the road against a team from the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big 10 or Big 12 Conferences.

Arkansas won at Wake Forest 75-59 on Dec. 23, 1998, and lost its next 11 on the road or at neutral sites to rival leagues, including three in the NCAA Tournament.

The Razorbacks' Jan. 23, 1999, win at home against Providence was its last against a major conference.

"It hasn't happened in a while," Heath said. "We needed a game like this psychologically and for confidence. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We felt we'd get a very good effort from a good Missouri team."

Arkansas is also the first SEC school to pull its weight on the road this year.

Before the Razorbacks' win Tuesday, the SEC was a collective 2-15 against the five major conferences this year with an 0-9 record against ranked nonconference opponents.

Alabama beat Minnesota and Florida beat Providence, both at neutral sites, for the SEC's two major nonconference victories before Arkansas' win.

The SEC has some understandable losses like No. 10 Kentucky at No. 8 North Carolina and No. 22 Mississippi State to No. 4 Syracuse and No. 15 Arizona (at neutral sites), but the conference has suffered home losses by Florida (75-62 against Miami), South Carolina (63-62 against Clemson) and LSU (84-69 against West Virginia).

The attendance at the new $75-million Mizzou Arena was technically a sellout, but only 10,086 of the 15,000 capacity was filled for the 4-4 Tigers.

The Razorbacks were seeking a win in a hostile environment, but it wasn't always clear which team was the target of the hostility.

Less than two minutes into the game, Arkansas was up 6-0 and the Tigers were booed off the floor when coach Quin Snyder called a quick timeout.

The fans were alternately disgusted and on their feet at the Tigers, who made more turnovers (18) than field goals (17).

Missouri made the occasional run at Arkansas, but with 2:16 to play and only down 52-48, the fans started leaving when Arkansas junior Rashard Sullivan stepped to the foul line.

Apparently they've seen this before.

Sullivan made the first free throw and missed the second. Sullivan back-tapped the rebound to halfcourt and Dontell Jefferson made a diving save and tossed the ball back to Ronnie Brewer, who tossed it to Olu Famutimi for an alley-oop slam and a 55-48 lead to send even more fans trudging toward the exits.

"They were up and down," Brewer said of the crowd. "They have a good facility, but I really can't complain. They can't compare to our fans.

"Ours are the best in the country."

Between Arkansas' Jan.. 23, 1999 win against Providence and Tuesday's 62-52 win at Missouri, the Razorbacks went 0-18 against teams from four other major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12). Prior to Tuesday, Arkansas had lost 11 straight on the road or at neutral sites to those teams.

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