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.
Time for Hogs to rediscover want-to
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STEPHEN B. THORNTON -- Arkansas' Marshawn Powell drives to the basket in the second half against Alabama A&M's on Dec. 22, 2012 at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.
FAYETTEVILLE More times than Razorbacks fans want to remember, they heard former Arkansas basketball coaches Stan Heath and John Pelphrey and their defeated teams remark that their opposition “just wanted it more.”
No doubt some winced when they read it again in cold print Thursday in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The Texas A&M Aggies, so lackluster that they lost to Southern University of Baton Rouge at home and were out rebounded 30-19 by 4-11 Houston Baptist, routed the Razorbacks 69-51 Wednesday night and out rebounded them 51-27 in both teams’ SEC opener at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.
“I thought A&M probably wanted it more than we did,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said.
Ouch, how the truth hurts. Especially hearing Anderson say it.
Arkansas (9-5, 0-1) vs. Vanderbilt (6-7, 0-1)
WHERE: Bud Walton Arena
WHEN: 5:05 p.m.
For 17 years before his successful head coaching stops at Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri,Anderson assisted Nolan Richardson, Arkansas’ all-time winningest basketball coach and its only basketball coach who achieved a national championship and national runner-up finish.
Richardson’s teams didn’t win every game, but the perception was they always wanted every game more than their opponents.
Except, they didn’t. Basketball teams play too many games for any team to get psyched up for them all.
Richardson is a Hall of Fame coach, but even his best teams struggled against some nonentities.
Tennessee brought an eventual 2-14 SEC team to Barnhill Arena and drubbed Richardson’s 1993 Sweet Sixteen-bound Razorbacks, 101-91.
The next year, Arkansas’ national championship year, the Hogs needed Scotty Thurman’s buzzer beater to escape Knoxville, Tenn., a 65-64 survivor over another terrible Tennessee team that went 3-13 in league play.
Eddie Sutton, another Hall of Famer who was Richardson’s predecessor at Arkansas, recalled that Baylor’s old Heart O’ Texas Coliseum was so depressingly contagious that the coach admitted even his want-to seemed whacked out in Waco.
Anderson’s Razorbacks (9-5) appeared to want each game at least as much as their opponents in their previous 13 games. This last one they didn’t.
One flat note out of 14 is understandable, though to Anderson still not palatable. Mary Poppins couldn’t force-feed enough spoonfuls of sugar to make Wednesday’s medicine go down.
Asked if admitting that Texas A&M wanted it more was the most disappointing aspect of Wednesday’s game, Anderson didn’t hesitate.
“It was,” he said. “The league starts, the championship is at stake, and I was disappointed from the standpoint of our guys and just the energy. In the second half, when A&M really started getting physical and aggressive, I just didn’t see the team that we had been becoming as of late.
“I will hold them accountable, but at the same time let’s understand it’s not panic time. There’s a lot of basketball to be played.”
Play resumes today. Vanderbilt, which lost to reigning national champion Kentucky 60-58 Thursday night at Vandy’s Memorial Gym, visits Walton Arena for a 5 p.m. tip-off.
“I know being in this business for this long that you have got to have short-term memory,” Anderson said. “You have got to learn, and you have got to move forward.”
Sports, Pages 20 on 01/12/2013