Auburn is looking for its first road win since the 2000-2001 season. The Tigers come in to the game off a 62-59 home victory over Vanderbilt at home while the Razorbacks fell on the road at Alabama 61-51.
The loss was the third straight for Coach Stan Heath's club after falling to Oklahoma State (71-45) and Memphis (72-67) in the previous two outings. Not a normal Arkansas squad, the Razorbacks have defeated only marginal teams this season in Jackson State, Louisiana Tech, Sam Houston State, Southwest Texas State and Centenary while dropping games to non-traditional powers such as Troy State and Oral Roberts.
While the Razrobacks appear on the surface to be vulnerable, this is a place of horrors for the Auburn Tigers. With a record of 1-10 all-time in Fayetteville, including an 0-9 record in Bud Walton Arena, Coach Cliff Ellis knows that this will be a tough task for his team in its first true road test of the season.
"Arkansas is always a place there is going to be a lot of emotion in the coliseum," Ellis said. "It's going to be important for us to go out and play and be hard-nosed. It's going to be a game that will involve the boards. It's going to be a game where good shots are important, but I think boards and transition are going to be a big key in this game."
The Razorbacks are a model of consistency or inconsistency, whichever way you interpret things. Freshman guard Kendrick Davis (6-3, 171) leads the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game despite not being a starter. Two other Hogs score in double figures and both are also freshmen. Point guard Eric Ferguson (11.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists) is second on the team while 6-4 Jonathon Modica follows with 11.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest.
Perplexing is the play of the inside players for Arkansas. The most experienced part of the team, the trio of Dionisio Gomez (6-8, 218, Sr.), Alonzo Lane (6-7, 248, Sr.) and Carl Baker (6-8, 206, Sr.) has failed to be the leaders on the court the young Hogs need this season. Gomez has done his part, averaging 9.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The same can't be said for Lane and Baker, who combined average just 9.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest. If the Tigers can limit them to those totals Saturday afternoon it would go a long way towards an Auburn victory.
Marquis Daniels plays defense against Vanderbilt Wednesday night.
For the Tigers the offense is centered around senior Marquis Daniels. Leading the team in six categories (19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.6 steals, 61 percent shooting, 4.86 defensive rebounds, he's the only player in the SEC to ranks in the top five in five different statistical categories. His play has been a mark of consistency along with that of sophomore forward Marco Killingsworth.
Averaging 16.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, Killingsworth has stepped up his game this season after dropping over 20 pounds in the offseason to get in better shape. Working on his game offensively to become a more complete player, the left-hander has given Auburn a legitimate scoring threat opposite Daniels and made the entire team better because of the attention he draws in the paint.
"I don't think there is any question he has stepped up his game," Ellis said of Killingsworth. "He went in the weight room this past offseason. He dropped some weight, he moved some weight around and got stronger. He's stepping up his game. He's actually even been able to take his game out on the floor a little bit. He's always played with his back to the basket."
Rounding out the starting lineup for the Tigers will be the three-guard combination of senior Derrick Bird (11.0, 3.5) and sophomores Nathan Watson (9.1, 3.9) and Lewis Monroe (6.3, 2.9). Since inserting Watson into the starting lineup in place of center Kyle Davis (8,1, 6.7, 4.6 blocks), Auburn has reeled off four consecutive wins with the more aggressive and quicker lineup on the court.
The Tigers welcomed back sophomore Brandon Robinson in Wednesday's win over Vanderbilt and the exciting 6-8 forward picked up right where he left off as a freshman with eight points and four rebounds in just 18 minutes of action. A Freshman All-SEC selection last season, he was held out of Auburn's first 13 games of the season because of questions regarding AAU basketball ties while he attended prep school.
After the trip to Fayetteville, the Tigers return to action Wednesday when they make a trip to Columbia to face the South Carolina Gamecocks, winners over Ole Miss in their SEC opener.