Hogs heading to safe haven

Arkansas 4-27 outside its border, 2-0 at Auburn

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said he believes the Razorbacks are close to a breakthrough on the road.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said he believes the Razorbacks are close to a breakthrough on the road.

— For an Arkansas basketball program thirsting for victories away from home, Auburn Arena has been an oasis.

Over the past three seasons, the Razorbacks are 2-0 in Auburn Arena and 2-27 everywhere else they’ve played outside the state of Arkansas.

That span covers a 3-9 out-of-state record in John Pelphrey’s last season as Arkansas’ coach (2010-2011) and a 1-18 record in Mike Anderson’s two seasons on the job.

“I didn’t know that number,” Arkansas junior guard Kikko Haydar said when told of the 1-18 mark under Anderson. “We don’t really think about that number.

“We just try to focus on the next practice. We’ve had kind of a roller-coaster ride the last couple of weeks, so we’re just ready to get back on the court.”

But 1-18 seems difficult to ignore.

“That’s not a great number, I’ll put it that way,” Haydar said. “We’d like to change that.”

If the Razorbacks (14-9, 5-5 SEC) are going to get a victory away from home this season, they appear to be in the right place tonight. They play Auburn (9-14, 3-7) at 8 p.m. Central at Auburn Arena.

Arkansas’ lone SEC road victories each of the past two seasons were the Razorbacks’ only two games at Auburn Arena: 57-55 in 2011 and 76-71 in 2012.

“To me, that has nothing to do with what is going to take place in this game,” Anderson said. “I really believe that. Every game every year has different teams.”

But the Razorbacks have seven players on their roster who have experienced a victory at Auburn Arena, including junior guards Rickey Scott and Mardracus Wade, who combined for 40 points last season when Arkansas rallied from a 17-point deficit.

“Obviously, it was a hard fought game and we were down and we found a way,” Anderson said. “Maybe those guys can reach back on those memories.”

Wade said he feels confident about Arkansas’ chances to win tonight.

“I feel like every time we go on the road we can win,” Wade said. “Obviously, our record doesn’t show that, but I feel l like we can go to Auburn and get a win, just like I felt last week at Vanderbilt we could have gotten a win.”

The Razorbacks lost 67-49 at Vanderbilt last Saturday - after beating then-No. 2 Florida 80-69 earlier in the week - to fall to 0-8 in outof-state games.

“They play a different style on the road,” Auburn Coach Tony Barbee said. “They’re not as aggressive as they are at home. I think that’s probably the biggest difference.”

Arkansas and Missouri are the only SEC teams without a road victory. The Tigers (0-5) will go for their first road victory at Mississippi State tonight. They play at Arkansas on Saturday.

“I think you look at thenumbers, we haven’t defended well on the road,” Missouri Coach Frank Haith said. “We haven’t shot the ball as well on the road.”

In Missouri’s losses at Ole Miss and Florida, the Tigers were without senior centerLaurence Bowers, who is averaging team-highs of 14.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Bowers has returned from a knee injury and played in losses at LSU and Texas A&M.

“I think the last two we played better, we just didn’t finish those games,” said Haith, who replaced Anderson at Missouri. “We’re stillnot defending like I would like us to do on the road. That’s all a mental toughness type thing.

“‘I’m hopeful that we can get that going down the stretch, because we’ve got four of our next five on the road.”

Anderson said he also remains hopeful in spite of the Razorbacks’ road struggles.

“It’s just a process you’ve got to go through,” Anderson said. “I think that’s part of it when you come in and you’re really rebuilding your program.

“You’re trying to do it the right way. As painful as it is, you’ve got to go through it. I mean, we can sit up here and talk about it all day long. It’s just something you’ve got to go through.”

Anderson said he believes Arkansas is close to a road breakthrough.

“It’s just a matter now of going out and doing it,” he said. “I think we’ve just got to keep our guys going in the right direction, being positive

“I think more than anything else you’ve got to be consistent for 40 minutes. Withstand the ebbs and flows of a game, withstand the emotions.”

For the Razorbacks, there appears to be no better place to try and start a road reversal than Auburn Arena.

Sports, Pages 23 on 02/13/2013