Another shot at road cred

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, February 9, 2013
BJ Young was not selected in the 2013 NBA draft on Thursday.
Photo by Andy Shupe
BJ Young was not selected in the 2013 NBA draft on Thursday.

— Arkansas sophomore guard BJ Young said he didn’t get a standing ovation in any classes this week after the Razorbacks beat No. 2 Florida 80-69 on Tuesday night in Walton Arena.

“No, no, none of that,” Young said, adding the Razorbacks expect to win at home. “I wouldn’t even want a standing ovation in class until we get a road win.”

Arkansas is 31-5 at home in Mike Anderson’s two seasons as coach but 1-17 in out of-state games, - 1-14 on the road and 0-3 at neutral sites. The lone victory away from Walton Arena or Verizon Arena in North Little Rock during that span came at Auburn last season.

This season the Razorbacks (14-8, 5-4 SEC) are 0-7away from home, but they appear to be building momentum after playing their closest road game in a 59-56 loss at Alabama and beating Tennessee and Florida to run their Walton Arena record to 13-1.

“We want to take it to the next level,” Anderson said. “That’s the next step, taking it away from here. We know we play real good here at home. Now, let’s see if we can go and not be in our beds, not be around our families and friends and see if we can go into an environment that makes it a little more difficult from the setup standpoint.”

Arkansas’ next chance for a road victory comes today when the Razorbacks play Vanderbilt (8-13, 2-7) in Memorial Gym, which has the oddity of team benches on the baselines.

The only Razorbacks with playing experience in Memorial Gym are redshirt junior forward Marshawn Powell and junior guard Mardracus Wade, who scored a combined 11 points when Arkansas beat the Commodores 89-78 two years ago.

Junior guard Rickey Scott didn’t play in the game.

“We’re not too worried about where the bench is at,” Young said. “As long as they have two hoops and a ball, we should be OK.”

Today will mark the seventh time Anderson has been on the visiting bench in Memorial Gym. He was an Arkansas assistant when the Razorbacks went 1-4 at Memorial Gym between 1992 and 2001 and was Missouri’s coach when the Tigers won at Vanderbilt 89-83 three years ago.

“It is different, put it that way,” Anderson said. “Our players probably will embrace it because to get away from our bench, they get away from me.”

Anderson said the Razorbacks will need to have trust in one another.

“Guys that have been there like Marshawn and Mardracus, have got to be like my voice out there,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, those other guys will follow their lead.”

Vanderbilt is 729-202 in Memorial Gym during 61 seasons. That .783 winning percentage earned the nickname “Memorial Magic” for the Commodores’ home-court advantage, but they are 5-5 there this season with losses to Villanova, Butler, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Alabama.

“We’ve had some really good teams come in here, but we haven’t protected our home court like maybe we have in the past,” said Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings, who has a 184-51 record at Memorial Gym in 14 seasons. “I think some of it is we’re just not as good.”

Vanderbilt, which didn’t return any starters from last season’s 25-11 team, lost to Kentucky by two points, blew a 13-point lead before losing to Ole Miss in overtime and lost to Alabama after leading by 11 points.

“We’ll figure out how to finish games and start winning them again at some point,” Stallings said.

Anderson said the Commodores’ first-year starters, led by sophomore guard Kedren Johnson (14.5 points per game), have become more comfortable in their roles since Arkansas beat Vanderbilt 56-33 in Walton Arena four weeks ago. The Commodores have a four game losing streak, but they have lost their past three games - to Tennessee, Alabama and LSU - by a combined seven points.

“That tells me they’re getting better,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he is convinced the Razorbacks are getting better, too, especially with freshman forwards Michael Qualls and Jacorey Williams and junior-college transfer forward Coty Clarke playing bigger roles in recent games.

“I just see some things that are starting to come together, some things our guys are starting to recognize,” Anderson said. “The biggest part of it is, it’s going to be about our defense.

“Our offense, we’ve seen that come, and we’ve seen it go. If we can defend, we’ll make some shots eventually.”

The Razorbacks said they won’t suffer a letdown after beating Florida because they understand how much focus will be needed to win at Vanderbilt.

“We just want to take that same mentality we had against Tennessee and Florida and take it on the road,” Qualls said. “We’ve got to prove to ourselves we can get it done.”

Today’s game

ARKANSAS VS. VANDERBILT WHEN 12:30 p.m. Central WHERE Memorial Gym, Nashville, Tenn.

RECORDS Arkansas 14-8, 5-4 SEC;

Vanderbilt 8-13, 2-7 SERIES Arkansas leads 18-9 TV SEC Network telecast on KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock; KHOG/KHBS, Channel 40/29, in Fayetteville/Fort Smith; and KAIT, Channel 8, in Jonesboro RADIO Razorback Sports Network

Sports, Pages 19 on 02/09/2013