Hoping To Handle The SEC Road

Stefan Welsh knows something will go wrong against Ole Miss tonight, when he accompanies six freshmen to Tad Smith Coliseum for their first Southeastern Conference road game. He realizes the unexpected nature of throwing on a cardinal red jersey and competing in a hostile environment.

Arkansas' junior guard has been through 16 Southeastern Conference road games. He has tasted the joyous highs. More often than not, he has experienced the devastating lows.

So Welsh said he had advice ready for Arkansas' newcomers, who have competed at Missouri State and at South Alabama but never in a different SEC gym.

"We won't have 19,000 behind us, screaming for us every basket," Welsh said. "It all has to be (from) within. Everything has to come from the team, from within the coaching staff, from within the locker room. It's a mental toughness you need to have, a mental mindset."

At least the Razorbacks can reference previous success as they gear up for this important contest, which precedes a trip to Florida on Saturday. Four days after falling 62-57 at Missouri State, Arkansas traveled to South Alabama and won 79-77 on Welsh's last-second 3-pointer.

The Mitchell Center environment on Nov. 26 certainly wasn't anything close to what the Hogs will encounter tonight, however.

In fact, plenty of quantitative evidence can prove to Arkansas' freshmen just how difficult road games are in the SEC. There is, of course, the Razorbacks' own historic domination in Bud Walton Arena. But also, they can look at Arkansas' conference road record since 1996 — a dismal 26-78.

Senior forward Marcus Monk said he'd absolutely be talking to freshmen Courtney Fortson, Rotnei Clarke, Jason Henry, Michael Sanchez, Brandon Moore and Andre Clark. His days of trying to catch passes in front of hostile football crowds should translate, he said.

"You just have to control yourself," Monk said. "The other team will have the advantage, so you want to just control yourself, play hard and play consistent."

Another worrisome factor, in addition to inexperience, for Arkansas coach John Pelphrey: The Razorbacks haven't played outside of the Natural State since late November. Oh, and don't forget the Hogs' abysmal recent history in Oxford, either.

Granted, the Razorbacks will encounter an injury-plagued Rebels team that has lost three starters for the season, including all-SEC sophomore guard Chris Warren. But Arkansas has left 11 of its last 12 trips to Ole Miss with a defeat.

"Traditionally, it's been a very difficult place to play," Pelphrey said. "I have experience with that as a player, as an assistant coach and now as a head coach ... When you get a small arena like that full, it's tough."

Welsh said he felt confident about this young team's ability to bring intensity on the road. Not confident enough to skip having a heart-to-heart with his teammates before tonight's game, though.

"We have to be 10 points better (on the road)," Welsh said. "We have to be very disciplined and execute our offense. And we have to be within. This team is about heart and intensity and toughness, and if we have those three things on the road, combined with execution, I like our chances."

Today's Ticket

Arkansas at Ole Miss

When: 7 p.m. TV: None

Where: Tad Smith Coliseum, Oxford, Miss.

Records: Arkansas, 12-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference; Ole Miss, 9-6, 0-1

Radio: KEZA-FM 107.9, KKEG-FM 92.1, KUOA-AM 1290, FM 105.3

Coaches: Arkansas, John Pelphrey (35-14, 2nd season at Arkansas; 115-80 overall in 7 seasons); Ole Miss, Rick Stansbury (54-30, 3rd season at Ole Miss; 75-43 overall in 4 seasons)

Series: Series: Arkansas leads 40-22 (Ole Miss leads 14-5 in Oxford)

Last Meeting: Ole Miss beat Arkansas 81-72 on March 4, 2008, in Oxford

Away From Home In The SEC

Arkansas doesn't have great history of playing on the road in the Southeastern Conference. The Razorbacks last posted a winning SEC record on the road during the 1995 season (5-3). Since then, the Hogs are 26-78 away from Bud Walton Arena against conference foes.

Season SEC Road Record

2008 2-6

2007 2-6

2006 3-5

2005 1-7

2004 0-8

2003 1-7

2002 1-7

2001 3-5

2000 2-6

1999 3-5

1998 3-5

1997 2-6

1996 3-5

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