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.
Team gets Pat on back from ex-Hog Bradley
Auburn's Bryant Smith (13) drives the lane as Arkansas' Pat Bradley, left, guards him during the second half Wednesday, Feb. 24, 1999, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas won 104-88. (AP Photo/Gary Yandell)
FAYETTEVILLE Former Arkansas guard Pat Bradley couldn’t help but think back to his final home game as he sat in Walton Arena on Tuesday night and watched the Razorbacks beat No. 2-ranked Florida 80-69.
It was the Razorbacks’ first victory over a team ranked as high as No. 2 in 14 years, since Bradley scored 23 points to help Arkansas beat No. 2 Auburn 104-88 on Feb. 24, 1999.
“The way we beat Auburn felt a lot like the way we beat Florida, because from the tip off, Auburn didn’t even have a chance,” said Bradley, a Little Rock radio talk show host. “I mean, they knew they didn’t have a chance.
“You can feel an environment when the other team is just like, ‘Hurry up and make sure this clock ticks down, because we’re trying to get out of here.’ I don’t think the Auburn guys even took a shower that night. I think they just got on the bus and left after that game.”
The Razorbacks led the Gators by 27 points before Florida made a late run to pull within 11. Arkansas jumped out to a 36-13 lead, hitting 14 of its first 18 shots, including 7 of 9 three-pointers.
“You’ve going to beat a lot of teams shooting like that,but what really impressed me was our defense, and the intensity we played with,” Bradley said. “Our guys came out with so much intensity, and then they maintained it.
“I made the comment to somebody sitting next to me how that game was exactly how it was for many years in Bud Walton. Very few teams actually walked in and thought that they could win there. They may have said, ‘If we shoot OK, we’ve got a chance,’ and then after the first two minutes, it was over.”
Bradley said he was impressed when he heard about red shirt junior forward Marshawn Powell saying after the game that the players didn’t need a pregame speech from Coach Mike Anderson because they were so focused.
“I thought that was so beautiful what Marshawn said, I was so proud of him and all the other players, and I was proud of Coach Anderson for the job he’s doing and for not changing,” Bradley said. “He’s giving the same message to those guys every day to come in and work and work.”
Powell hit a three-pointer 38 seconds into the game and then junior guard Mardracus Wade - who was shooting 27.6 percent on three-point attempts (16 of 58) - hit two within a 1:21 span to put the Razorbacks ahead 9-2.
“I know Mardracus has been struggling with his shot, and when he came out and hit two in a row, I just wanted to give him the biggest hug,” Bradley said. “I felt so happy, because I know how hard all those guys work.
“I kind of feel like an older brother now who has been in their shoes, so I feel a lot of pride. For our guys, that Florida game was almost a ‘we’ve arrived’ moment. I hope they believe that they’ve arrived and that game wasn’t a fluke.”
Powell had to watch helplessly from Arkansas’ bench last season when Florida beat the Razorbacks 98-68 - themost-lopsided loss they had endured in Walton Arena’s 20 seasons.
“I sat and watched a lot of losses that we had last year,” said Powell, who missed all but the first two games a year ago because of a knee injury. “I want to leave something positive.
“I don’t want to leave a bad legacy here, or a bad memory of us not winning big games.”
Powell was among eight Razorbacks who scored seven or more points against Florida, an improvement in balance from past games when sophomore BJ Young and Powell have carried the load. They came into thegame averaging a combined 32 points.
They combined for 24 Tuesday night.
“Guys have responded to Coach Anderson’s question of, ‘Who else is going to step up?’ ” Bradley said. “You’ve got to understand, he’s been on the job for one season and a half, and he’s had to train these guys’ bodies and their minds, because they’ve never worked like what he’s been putting them through.
“You can see the team is starting to develop an identity and understand what they’re supposed to be doing out there.”
The Razorbacks (14-8, 5-4 SEC) are 14-1 at home thisseason, but 0-7 outside the state of Arkansas, including five road losses and two losses at a tournament in Las Vegas. They’ll try for their first victory away from home at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
“We’re progressing in the right direction,” Anderson said. “We shot the ball well, but the thing I like is our defense has been pretty constant the last few games. If we can continue to build on that and shoot the ball - and we’re not that bad a shooting team - hopefully we will have people in trouble.”
Anderson was in the midst of a 17-year run as an Arkansas assistant when Bradley played for the Razorbacks.He returned to Arkansas in March of 2011 after being at Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri as head coach for 11 seasons.
“The Florida game should just confirm to everybody that what Mike Anderson is doing is working,” Bradley said. “But there’s still a long way to go. That’s just a glimpse.
“I don’t want everyone to think, ‘We just beat the No. 2 in the country, we’re going to the Final Four!’ Hold on a little bit, because there’s still going to some bumps in the road.
“Our guys have something to build now, though, and I know Coach Anderson is going to get it done.”
Sports, Pages 19 on 02/07/2013