If message boards and radio call in shows are an indication, a number of University of Arkansas basketball fans have leaped head first off of the Razorback basketball bandwagon.
That's because of the overall struggles of the past 13-plus months and the natural disappointment from a 65-54 loss Wednesday night at LSU, who was previously winless in SEC action and was riding a 12-game losing skid.
But UA head coach John Pelphrey and sophomore guard Rotnei Clarke note they are not folding up their tent just yet with No. 16 Vanderbilt due in Saturday for a 12:47 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena.
"There are two of our last three (games) at home and there are certainly a lot of possibilities for the top spot in the West," Pelphrey said. "If we bounce back here and somehow get a win (over Vandy), the whole world is going to look different."
Clarke said that the Razorbacks (14-14, 7-6) will put forth their best effort against the Commodores (21-6, 10-3).
Arkansas is a game behind Mississippi State (20-8, 8-5) - who is at South Carolina on Saturday - in the SEC West and a game ahead of Ole Miss (18-9, 6-7), who is at Alabama.
"I feel like we are still confident," Clarke said. "We went down to Baton Rouge feeling confident we were going to come out with that win and we didn't. That was tough. But I still think our mindset is where it needs to be to continue finishing out strong."
Arkansas is 5-1 in SEC home games this season heading into the game with Vanderbilt, who edged visiting Georgia 96-94 in overtime on Thursday night.
"We feel like anything can happen at home no matter who we are playing," Clarke said. "We have a tremendous fan base. It is always fun. We are always geared up to play here at home. That definitely gives us some confidence going into this game."
Clarke referenced the 101-70 loss at Kentucky earlier in this season. Arkansas won its next five games after that humbling.
"That really opened our eyes up, that game at Kentucky," Clarke said. "Being able to take something like that and draw from that and the experiences from that really helps us."
Razorback senior center Michael Washington missed Wednesday night's loss with a badly sprained ankle, but hopes to play against Vanderbilt.
"He is one of our best players and he is a great leader for us," Clarke said. "Just being a senior leader is big for us, but we have gone through a lot of controversy this year and different things and we are just going to play with whoever we have and not making any excuses."
Washington's absence was probably a factor in talented freshman forward Marshawn Powell having just 5 points and 7 turnovers in the LSU loss.
That was after Powell pouring in 49 points in the last two games.
"He (Washington) does a lot of things for us," Clarke said. "He gets a lot of guys open even if he doesn't get his numbers up. He opens up a lot of opportunities for other guys, whether it is drawing double teams. Everybody has always got to keep him in their game plan because they know he can do a lot of things for us. Hopefully he will be back. That's what I am hoping and praying for."
Vanderbilt trailed SEC East cellar dweller Georgia by 6 points with less than a minute left at home Thursday night, but rallied to force overtime and eventually win.
Senior point guard Jermaine Beal had a career-high 28 points and sophomore forward Andre Walker a career-high 17 – including his first 3-pointer this season – to spark the comeback.
Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy tipped in a miss to force overtime and Georgia missed game-winning shots at both the regulation and overtime buzzers.
"I was proud of our guys," Commodores head coach Kevin Stallings said. "They kept playing and kept battling. We finally got it over the top and got it to OT. It was a tough, hard-fought game. [Georgia] is a good team and they're a relatively difficult team for us for some reason. I thought we had guys who made plays...At this time of year, you're trying to get them in the left-hand column."
Pelphrey is impressed with what he has seen from the Commodores.
"Vanderbilt is outstanding," Pelphrey said. "Obviously they have had a great, great year and are a good basketball team. I think they only have one senior and that's Beal and he is tremendous. He is kind of guy for them, Ogilvy up front for them is a game-changer and Jeffrey Taylor continues to get better and better. The rest of those guys are just really good , fundamentally sound basketball players who give them tremendous versatility."
Arkansas will have to take the game today because it will not be handed to the Razorbacks per Pelphrey.
"They are not going to hurt themselves and they are almost surgical like from the offensive side of it," Pelphrey said. "They put a tremendous amount of heat and pressure on you. I just have a lot of respect for them and how they have played so far."
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