Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Hogs must come up big against Rebels
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson celebrates at the end of the second overtime an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn in Fayetteville, Ark., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Arkansas defeated Auburn 88-80. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE Obviously these otherwise compact to midsized Razorbacks need Hunter Mickelson playing up to his 6-10 height.
Those games when Mickelson comes up short, Coty Clarke, 6-7, will have to do.
Clarke did against Auburn on Wednesday night.
Certainly Marshawn Powell and BJ Young combining for 50 points - Powell scored 28 and Young had 22 - and Mardracus Wade’s 12 points and three steals off the bench deserved star billing, but Arkansas doesn’t beat Auburn 88-80 in double overtime at Walton Arena without Clarke playing a major supporting role.
Auburn starts senior Rob Chubb, who is 3 inches taller and 25 pounds stouter at 6-10 and 250 than Clarke, and brings 7-footer Asauhn Dixon-Tatum off the bench.
Dixon-Tatum brought it, too, shooting 3 for 3 with 3 rebounds and 1 blocked shot in his 13 minutes spelling Chubb. Chubb threw his weight around for 37 minutes, scoring 12 points and matching Powell’s game-high 11 rebounds.
Clarke helped keep Auburn’s big men within Arkansas’ range. In a season-high 38 minutes off the bench, the junior college transfer forward scored 9 points, some on mid-range jumpers, grabbed 8 rebounds, blocked 2 shots, dealt out 4 assists and committed only 1 turnover to Chubb’s 5.
No wonder, with team-leading shot-blocker Mickelson suffering an off night, Clarke subbed just two minutes shy of a standard 40-minute game.
“I mean, he deserved those minutes,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought he brought energy. You look at his game - a mid-range game for us, active on the boards and defensively, deflecting passes. We saw him play probably one of his better games, and it was very needed.”
They likely will need Clarke as much or more today against Ole Miss regardless of how well Mickelson plays at the Tad Pad in Oxford, Miss.
Clarke inherited some advantages Wednesday. It was at Walton Arena and against Auburn, the only team last season’s Hogs swept home and home.
Ole Miss has won five consecutive games against Arkansas, including the past two seasons sweeping home and home.
Ole Miss senior big men Murphy Holloway, 6-7, 240, and Reginald Buckner, 6-9, 235, loomed large while sweeping the Hogs in 2011 and 2012.
They are making a difference for Ole Miss (15-2, 3-0 SEC) this season as well. Holloway is the SEC’s leading rebounder, and Buckner has blocked 45 shots already.
Of course, those 2011 and 2012 Arkansas teams didn’t have Clarke and freshman forwards Jacorey Williams, 6-8, and Michael Qualls, a high-flyer though only 6-5, and didn’t have Mickelson with a season and a half of college experience. Last season’s team also didn’t have 6-7 Powell, who was out rehabbing from knee surgery.
So it’s virtually a new Arkansas front line facing the same Ole Miss team with its tough inside game, plus the additional outside shooting of guard Marshall Henderson, the SEC’s leading scorer.
“It’s important,” Anderson said, “that all our guys be ready to go into a place where they’re going to be riled up and ready for us.”
Sports, Pages 22 on 01/19/2013