Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Gators to test Hogs’ home competence
Arkansas' head coach Mike Anderson disputes a call during the second half an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. Arkansas defeated Tennessee 73-60. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE The only basketball coach to lead Arkansas to a national championship and national runner-up reminded reporters Saturday that more of his Razorbacks’ record 389 victories were achieved inside Arkansas than outside Arkansas.
The 13-8 Razorbacks are 0-7 in road games under second-year coach Mike Anderson, former Arkansas Coach Nolan Richardson remarked Saturday that his Razorbacks also often struggled on the road, particularly in his first two seasons in 1985-86 and 1986-87.
Richardson addressed reporters at Walton Arena before a painting commemorating the 1994 national championship, with Richardson hoisting the trophy, was unveiled at halftime of Arkansas’ 73-60 triumph over Tennessee.
“I used to feel at Barnhill and then here that we could play the Lakers and have a chance to win,” Richardson said. “I didn’t feel that way when we went out on the road.”
Tuesday night at Walton, Anderson might prefer playing the Los Angeles Lakers to the Florida Gators arriving for a 6 p.m. game that will be televised on ESPN.
Florida fares far better in the SEC than the 21-26 Lakers in the NBA.
Fourth-ranked Florida, 18-2, rolls into Fayetteville 8-0 in the SEC. On Saturday Florida flattened No. 16 Ole Miss.
“This is my seventh Florida team to play,” Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy was quoted after Florida beat his Rebels 78-64. “One of those teams was the national championship team that had NBA lottery picks on it. I don’t remember a Florida team [like this current team] guarding with that intensity. I was really impressed.”
Even Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss’ brash SEC scoring leader, was humbled.
“I think they will contend for the national championship,” Henderson told reporters. “They executed perfectly. I see them being No. 1 in the country by the end of the season.”
So, though Anderson craves his Razorbacks becoming road Hogs, winning at Walton over Florida would still be the biggest feather in this season’s Hog hat.
No SEC team has come close to these Gators home or road. Each of Florida’s eight SEC victories have come by 14 points or more.
Considering only one SEC team has scored more than 60 points on Florida, and only two have scored more than 50, if Arkansas is to prevail, it must score significantly off its pressure defense.
Committing eight turnovers to Tennessee’s 20 on Saturday, Arkansas outscored Tennessee 27-5 off miscues at Walton.
But Florida sports a 1.4 assist turnover ratio, tied with Arkansas for best in the SEC.
Still, Arkansas sometimes can stop the best at Walton.
Tennessee guard Jordan McRae arrived averaging 18.8 points in SEC games. On Groundhog Day, the Hogs shadowed McRae like Punxsutawney Phil and held him to six points.
Arkansas will require that kind of defense on Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Co. on Tuesday night.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to make a statement,” Arkansas guard BJ Young said, “and show the improvement we’ve made as a team and get a big win in the SEC.”
Sports, Pages 16 on 02/04/2013