Bridging The Gap

Arkansas (16-10, 5-7) knows it is in a must-win situation tonight when it plays at Auburn (14-13, 4-8) and must take its home effort on the road.

Swift and simplistic, Patrick Beverley explanation made perfect sense.

Told that Arkansas shoots seven percent worse on the road than in Bud Walton Arena, Beverley snapped back quickly.

"I'm not surprised by that," Beverley said. "We shoot here every day, you know. Then again, we need to figure out how to shoot better on the road."

The Razorbacks better learn fast. Their season depends on it.

They take on Auburn at 7 tonight in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, knowing a loss would leave them with no margin for error. That margin already is slim, and Arkansas can't afford to continue its shooting struggles on the road.

The numbers tell the whole story.

In their 14 home games, the Hogs are shooting 49.4 percent from the field. In their eight true road games (1-7), they're converting just 42.8 percent of their field-goal attempts.

"On the road, to me, there's a mental side to being prepared to face a hostile crowd and react to calls that don't go your way," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "There has to be a glue with your team -- that everybody's sticking together."

Heath bluntly stated Monday that his players hadn't brought the necessary mental toughness along with them on most of Arkansas' eight road trips.

The Razorbacks' trip on Jan. 27 to Tuscaloosa, Ala., is the blinding exception.

Then, they looked nothing like what Heath usually puts on the floor in road games - he's 6-32 at Arkansas on the road in conference play.

"We had a different attitude on that trip," Razorback center Steven Hill said. "It was a business-like trip. We knew we had to take care of business. We knew we couldn't lose. We have that same attitude now."

Whether that attitude will translate to more points is unknown.

At just one game behind a three-way tie for first place in the SEC Western Division, Arkansas realizes it is far from out of division-title contention.

And while Heath stressed frantic defense, tempo control and ball possession as keys for tonight's contest, shooting could decide the outcome.

"You've seen what can happen when we get going," Arkansas small forward Sonny Weems said. "It's just too bad that hasn't really happened in our road games. I don't know how to explain it, really. You know, we're just not as comfortable on the road. But we have to get over that." Mostly, the absence of spurts and key late shots have hurt Arkansas.

The Hogs have rarely silenced an opposing crowd with a flurry of consecutive makes. They also have failed to convert on key possessions late in some winnable games on the road (ie: Texas, Ole Miss, South Carolina).

And, to win, they know that must change.

Beverley said he wasn't worried, despite Arkansas' consistent inconsistencies when shooting on the road. "We'll get it going I think," Beverley said. "There are so many good shooters on this team. Gary (Ervin), Stef (Welsh), Sean (McCurdy), me, Sonny.

"I'm not sure why we haven't had a great game shooting on the road yet."



WHEN: 7 p.m. TV: None

WHERE: Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, Auburn, Ala.

RECORDS: Arkansas, 16-10, 5-7 Southeastern Conference; Auburn, 14-13, 4-8

RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3

COACHES: Arkansas, Stan Heath (77-67, 5th season; 107-73 overall, 6 seasons); Auburn, Jeff Lebo, (40-46, third season; 155-109 overall, 9 seasons)

SERIES: Arkansas leads 20-12 (Auburn 9-6 in Auburn)

LAST MEETING: Arkansas won 65-57 on Feb. 7 in Fayetteville

LINE: Arkansas by 2

Poor Road Shooting

Arkansas has shot better than 50 percent from the field just once this season in true road games. The Hogs, 1-7 on the road, made 28 of their 55 field-goal attempts (50.9 percent) in a 74-72 loss on Jan. 13 at Ole Miss.

Site FG-FGA FG Pct.

Home 397-803 49.4

Neutral 67-143 46.8

Road 193-450 42.8

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