Arkansas could've taken a 9-6 league record into Saturday's Southeastern Conference finale with Auburn. The Hogs could've been done hearing about that dang bubble. They could've cemented their place in the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday night at Ole Miss.
But they didn't, losing 81-72 to the Rebels, and now they must again fight for their postseason fate into the second week of March. Following Tuesday's loss, a few Razorbacks stood outside their Tad Smith Coliseum locker room and emphasized they wouldn't dwell on the past.
Their tourney chances aren't dashed and they won't let another road defeat affect future performances like Saturday and next week in Atlanta in the SEC Tournament, they said.
"Our attitude still has to be positive," Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin said. "This was a tough game for us. This was a loss on national TV when we needed to win. But it's only one more loss.
"We still have games left. We can't hang our heads."
They will move forward, but the defeat in Oxford did frustrate the Razorbacks and their coach, John Pelphrey.
Don't think they aren't aware victory was attainable. The Hogs (19-10, 8-7) know they missed key shots. They know they played poor transition defense. They know they failed to match Ole Miss' physicality.
And those acts were enough to outweigh an overall improved effort on the road, where Arkansas finished 2-7.
"It wasn't really sloppy play," Pelphrey said. "But I just felt like there were toughness plays we didn't get. There were some remarkable efforts made by (Ole Miss), to get some second-chance opportunities. And when they got them, they were able to convert."
Despite the loss, Arkansas still holds control of its tournament destiny.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Razorbacks' Ratings Percentage Index was at No. 40, according to CollegeRPI.com. Jerry Palm, the Web site's owner and operator, opined about Arkansas and Ole Miss in his daily comments Tuesday.
"The Razorbacks finish conference play 2-6 on the road; the Rebels are even worse at 1-6," Palm wrote. "Both teams will likely have to make at least a little run in their conference tournament to get in the NCAA tournament."
Not unlike Arkansas' task during the second week of March in 2006 and 2007.
"We can't hang our heads now," Arkansas center Darian Townes said. "Our season isn't ruined."
AUBURN AT ARKANSAS
WHEN: 5 p.m. TV: ESPN Classic (Cox Ch. 122)
WHERE: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS: Auburn, 14-13, 4-10 Southeastern Conference; Arkansas, 19-10, 8-7
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
SERIES: Arkansas 22-13 (14-2 in Fayetteville)
LAST MEETING: Arkansas beat Auburn 76-70 on Jan. 10 in Auburn, Ala.
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