Aggies no joke to coach

Anderson 0-6 vs. Wednesday's foe

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
NWA Media/ANDY SHUPE -- Arkansas coach Mike Anderson directs his players Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, during the second half of play against Delaware State in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
NWA Media/ANDY SHUPE -- Arkansas coach Mike Anderson directs his players Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, during the second half of play against Delaware State in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy previews the Aggies' upcoming game against Arkansas.

Billy Kennedy - Arkansas Preview

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— Mike Anderson’s teams have beaten 106 of the 134 schools he’s faced in 11 seasons as a college head basketball coach.

Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan, Texas, Cincinnati, Maryland, Marquette, Purdue, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and even Arkansas are among them.

Texas A&M is not.

The Aggies are 6-0 against Anderson, the most times he has faced a team without winning.

“This would be a good time to start turning that around,” Arkansas sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson said.

Anderson’s Razorbacks will get a chance to help their coach beat the Aggies for the first time when Arkansas (9-4) plays Texas A&M (10-3) at 8 tonight in Reed Arena in the SEC opener.

“Hopefully, we can get rid of that curse,” Arkansas junior guard Rickey Scott said.

The game will be 147th time Arkansas has played Texas A&M, but their first meeting as SEC rivals. The teams last played during the 2010-2011 season in Dallas, where the Aggies beat the Razorbacks 71-62 in overtime.

Anderson was an Arkansas assistant for Coach Nolan Richardson when the Razorbacks went 11-5 against Texas A&M in 1986-1991 while in the Southwest Conference. His 0-6 mark against the Aggies came in the Big 12 Conference when he was Missouri’s coach.

“That’s Missouri. That really has nothing to do with us,” Arkansas sophomore guard BJ Young said. “I’m sure Coach A would love to beat them, and we would, too, just like we want to beat everybody that we play.”

Anderson said he doesn’t pay attention to such records.

“It’s a new year, a new challenge,” Anderson said. “I’m looking at what’s taking place in the game coming up.”

In addition to breaking Anderson’s losing streak against Texas A&M, the Razorbacks want to stop their SEC road struggles. Arkansas hasn’t had a winning SEC road record since going 5-3 in 1995, and the Razorbacks are 9-39 in SEC road games since 2007. They were 1-7 last season with the lone victory at Auburn 77-71.

So Arkansas can match last season’s SEC road victory total by winning at Texas A&M.

“In the past we haven’t done very good on the road, but I think this year with the team we have that we can go down there and get a win,” Razorbacks junior guard Mardracus Wade said. “I think the focus is a little better than it has been the past couple of years.”

Arkansas’ depth is better, too. After being down to eight healthy scholarship players at times last season, the Razorbacks had 13 players average between 27.8 and 8.8 minutes in the nonconference games.

That rotation figures to get smaller in SEC play, but Anderson has roster options the team lacked a year ago and a stronger inside game with the return of junior forward Marshawn Powell from a knee injury.

“We’re getting more guys involved, we’re finding out a little bit more about who we are,” Anderson said. “The lessons we learned earlier in the year, hopefully that will pay off in an environment like Texas A&M, because you know adversity is going to take place.

“You want to see how your team will respond. I’m sure Texas A&M will come out and try to deliver a punch. It’s their first game in the SEC, so the emotions are going to be sky-high.”

While Arkansas’ losses have come against No. 2 Michigan and No. 7 Syracuse, Arizona State and Wisconsin, the Aggies haven’t played a ranked team. Their most notable victory was 55-54 over Washington State in Kansas City, Mo., and their 8-1 home record includes a 53-51 loss to Southern University of Baton Rouge.

The Aggies, who have eight scholarship players in Billy Kennedy’s second season as coach, are led by 6-5 senior Elston Turner, who is averaging 15.3 points.

“We need an environment at home to rev us up and hopefully get us to play at the highest level possible,” Kennedy said. “I think this Arkansas team is different than some of those teams of the past. They play 12 guys and are more experienced with BJ Young and Marshawn Powell, and they have role identification.

“Coach Anderson’s system is in place. We will need every ounce of effort from our fans and players to win this game.”

Sports, Pages 19 on 01/09/2013