Auburn will suit up only seven scholarship players against Arkansas tonight in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum. So a game that appeared dangerous before the season began now looks like a perfect opportunity for Arkansas to forget its recent conference road demons.
The Hogs went 2-6 on the road in SEC games last season. They went 3-5 in 2006 and 1-7 in 2005.
"We want to be a different road team this season," Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin said. "Right now, that's all talk. But we think we can come out (tonight) and show that we really can be better on the road."
That task became exponentially easier because of Auburn's string of injuries.
To start with, the Tigers opened the season knowing they would be without senior guard Archie Miaway (academic ineligibility) and junior forward Josh Dollard (medical redshirt).
Then, an unthinkable stretch of bad luck depleted Auburn's roster. Freshman Boubacar Sylla, a 7-foot-1 center, broke his ankle. Junior Korvotney Barber, a 6-8 forward, then broke his hand. Three weeks later, sophomore forward Lucas Hargrove broke his hand.
Hargrove has since returned, but the Tigers are still left with a squad that can't practice five-on-five.
"It's a really hard situation to be honest," Auburn associate head coach John Cooper said. "It's hard to do anything in practice and get anything done. It's hard to simulate anything for games.
"But this is the hand we've been dealt, and no one will feel sorry for us. I can tell you John and his guys won't feel sorry for us."
The situation has put a heavy strain on the Tigers, as well as fourth-year coach Jeff Lebo.
It also doesn't bode well for Auburn (9-3) considering Arkansas (11-3) loves to push pace. Expect the Razorbacks to show a national television audience just how fast they prefer to play.
The faster they dart up the court, the more tired Auburn should get.
After all, Auburn has three players who have played all 40 minutes of a game at some point this season. Junior guard Quantez Robertson has never left the floor four times and averages an SEC-high 37.5 minutes per game.
Despite the hardships, Lebo said his players have somehow managed to stay positive.
"They have been resilient through everything," Lebo said. "Their attitude has been good. Their work habits have been good. Their effort has been good. But I feel for the kids because most of them are playing out of position and are playing too many minutes."
In a strange way, the predicament faced by Lebo could turn out to be a slight advantage against the Razorbacks.
Arkansas' big men will be forced to guard smaller, quicker players, such as small forward-turned-center Quan Prowell and shooting guard-turned-power forward Frank Tolbert.
"I think it's going to be (a challenge)," Pelphrey said. "Can we get to them or can they get to us? Are they able to get us in foul trouble and score baskets in drive-and-kick situations?
"There is a battle there. What's going to win, our size or their speed?"
ARKANSAS AT AUBURN
WHEN: 8 p.m. TV: ESPN2/ESPN2HD (Cox Ch. 24/733)
WHERE: Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, Auburn, Ala.
RECORDS: Arkansas 11-3, 0-0 Southeastern Conference; Auburn 9-3, 0-0
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, John Pelphrey (11-3, 1st season; 91-70, 6 seasons), Auburn, Jeff Lebo (52-51, 4th season; 167-114, 10 seasons)
SERIES: Arkansas leads 21-13
LAST MEETING: Arkansas beat Auburn 67-59 on on Feb. 21, 2007 in Fayetteville
Beverley Admits He's A Father
An attorney representing Patrick Beverley filed an answer Wednesday in Washington County Court to a paternity suit the sophomore guard was facing. In it, attorney Lance Cox writes that Beverley admits he is the father of Everett Miles Williams, a boy who turns eight months old today.
The filing stated Beverley already had been spending time with his son and hoped to continue to spend as much time as possible with him. It also included a counterpetition requesting an emergency hearing to address child support and visitation rights.
Beverley was traveling with the team Wednesday to Auburn, Ala., and was not available, said team spokesman Robby Edwards. Cox's filing also denied any allegations in the original filing by the boy's mother, Tumeka Williams, that Beverley was receiving any improper payments or benefits to which she'd be entitled.
Marvin Caston, the compliance director for University of Arkansas athletics, agreed.
"We found no wrongdoing with him through our routine procedures," Caston said.
— Ryan Malashock • The Morning News
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