Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
No time to rest for Razorbacks
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson yells to his team during their NCAA college basketball game against Alabama, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Tuscaloosa News, Michelle Lepianka Carter)
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas isn’t the only SEC team struggling to win on the road.
Tennessee brings an 0-5 road record - the same as Arkansas - into today’s 3 p.m. game against the Razorbacks at Walton Arena. The Volunteers (11-8, 3-4) also have some momentum going after winning at home against Alabama 54-53 and Vanderbilt 58-57 for their first back-to-back one-point victories since beating Denver 59-58 and Florida State 66-65 during the 1962-1963 season.
“I think the next phase is obviously winning games on the road,” Tennessee Coach Cuonzo Martin told reporters Thursday. “When you’re fighting for the top spot and you’re fighting for leverage in the league, you’ve got to be able to win games on the road.”
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said he’s more concerned about how the Razorbacks play than he is with Tennessee’s road record.
Arkansas (12-8, 3-4 SEC) vs. Tennessee (11-8, 3-4)
WHERE: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
WHEN: 3:05 p.m.
“We need to find a way to protect the home court,” Anderson said Friday. “We’ve done that so far in conference play, and it’s something we want to continue to do.”
The Razorbacks (12-8, 3-4) have the home-court advantage, but the Vols have the edge in rest and preparation time.
Arkansas’ players didn’t get back on campus until about 1:30 a.m. Friday after playing Thursday night at Alabama, where the Razorbacks lost 59-56. Tennessee hasn’t played since beating Vanderbilt at home Tuesday night.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” Anderson said. “I think there’s no question about it, and hopefully our team is prepared for that.”
Anderson said the Razorbacks would watch film Friday and then practice for 30 or 40 minutes while focusing on shooting.
“We need the energy for the game,” he said.
The Razorbacks rallied from an 11-point deficit at Alabama to lead by as many as three points in the second half but couldn’t hold off the Tide. Arkansas sophomore guard BJ Young missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
“I’m anxious to see how our guys respond,” Anderson said. “I thought we did some good things but just didn’t make enough plays to finish off the game.”
Tennessee senior forward Jeronne Maymon, a preseason All-SEC choice, is out for the season because of a knee injury and Martin said junior guard Trae Golden, who is averaging 10.0 points and 3.9 assists per game, is doubtful for today’s game because of a strained hamstring.
“They’ve got other weapons,” Anderson said. “They’ve got quite a few guys that played for them last year, and then they’ve got guys coming off the bench that are playing well.
“They’re well-rested and I’m sure they’ve done their job in terms of scouting us. We’ve got to be prepared to play.”
Tennessee junior guard Jordan McRae is averaging 18.9 points in SEC games and 14.3 on the season.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Anderson said. “He’s been their goto guy. Cuonzo is saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to put a lot more on you,’ and he’s enjoying the responsibility of that.”
Vols sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, 270 pounds, is averaging 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds. He has 63 offensive rebounds,including 15 the previous two games.
“We can’t let him catch the ball in the sweet spot, right there in the box where he can catch it and turn and look,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to make him work for it.
“Guys have got to get around him and front him or three-quarters beside him, and when he goes in there we’ve got to have some help. We have to make him guess whether he’ll be double teamed by faking like we’re coming in and digging in there. We have to make him shoot over us as opposed to going through us.”
Freshman forward Michael Qualls gave the Razorbacks a lift off the bench at Alabama with 9 points and 6 rebounds in 18 minutes.
“I think we saw the emergence of Michael Qualls,” Anderson said. “I think you can see bits and pieces of it throughout the year, but I thought last night it was on display. Not necessarily just from a scoring standpoint. I thought he was impactful from the standpoint of just being active. I thought he played with his heart.”
Young is averaging a team high 16.3 points and led the Razorbacks with 14 points at Alabama, but in the past four games he’s shooting 37.7 percent from the field (19 of 15), including 0 of 13 on three pointers.
“My take with BJ would be let the game come to him,” Anderson said. “He’s going to try and go get it, but let it come to you.
“With our team, we have other guys that are playing well, that are doing some good things, and you’ve got to remember [opponents] are targeting him, and he’s got to understand that. But I think with a guy that’s a scorer, all it takes is one game to really get going.”
Sports, Pages 21 on 02/02/2013