Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Bags packed, eye on victory
Arkansas assistant TJ Cleveland (right) scored 15 points in the Razorbacks' last win at South Carolina in 2001.
FAYETTEVILLE The last time Arkansas won a basketball game at South Carolina, Joe Johnson hit the winning shot.
Johnson, a guard for the Brooklyn Nets, is now in his 12th NBA season.
The Razorbacks (12-6, 3-2 SEC) will try and break their five-game losing streak at South Carolina and get their first road victory this season when they play the Gamecocks (11-7, 1-4) at 12:30 p.m. today in Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.
Arkansas assistant coach T.J. Cleveland was playing point guard and had the assist when Johnson hit a three point basket in the final seconds to lift the Razorbacks to a 69-67 victory over South Carolina at Frank McGuire Arena on Feb. 20, 2001.
Johnson was 4 of 14 from the field before hitting the game-winner.
Arkansas (12-6, 3-2 SEC) vs. South Carolina (11-7, 1-4)
WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Central
WHERE: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, S.C.
TV: SEC Network on KATV, Channel 7 in Little Rock; KHOG/KHBS, Channels 40/29 in Fayetteville/Fort Smith; and KAIT, Channel 8 in Jonesboro
“Joe had been struggling all game,” said Cleveland, who led the Razorbacks with 15 points. “That’s Joe, though - big-time players make big time shots, and he made that shot for us to win it.”
Colonial Life Arena opened for the 2002-2003 season, so Arkansas never has won in the building.
“I guess it’s time to start something new,” Cleveland said. “Hopefully, we can go in there and take care of business, and do what we’re supposed to do.”
The Razorbacks shot 30 fewer free throws than South Carolina in their 2001 victory - Cleveland hit their only free throw to complete a three-point play while the Gamecocks hit 17 of 31 - and Arkansas closed with a 14-2 run the final 3:28 to overcome a 65-55 deficit.
“We went small,” Cleveland said. “We had four guards and Joe was guarding a center. We used our quickness and we had to press to get back in it, and we did and made shots.
“We never got rattled, and I think that’s something this [year’s] team has to figure out. You may be down seven or eight points, but as long as there’s substantial time on the clock, you can get back in the game. If we can take that mind-set on the road, we’ll be fine.”
The Razorbacks are 1-9 in SEC road games in Mike Anderson’s two seasons as their coach and 9-41 since 2007. They lost the SEC opener at Texas A&M 69-51, then played more competitively at Ole Miss last Saturday, losing 76-64 after rallying from 13 points down to tie it 52-52.
“We played way better than we did at A&M,” Arkansas junior forward Marshawn Powell said after the Ole Miss game. “We actually showed that we can play on the road, and play with physicalness.
“I feel like just give us some time, and we’ll be in a position to play for something.”
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson - a Razorbacks assistant when they won at South Carolina 12 years ago - said he believes the Razorbacks are taking some confidence into today’s game after beating Mississippi State 96-70 on Wednesday night at Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks forced 29 turnovers, had 14 steals and 11 blocked shots and shot 49.3 percent from the field with 27 assists on 33 baskets.
“This is how I envisioned us playing,” Anderson said. “The key now is to take it on the road with toughness. We’re capable.”
Arkansas junior point guard Fred Gulley said the Razorbacks have come a long way in their first five SEC games.
“We’re learning the feel of each other,” Gulley said. “We’re getting comfortable playing our style.”
South Carolina has been vulnerable at home, where the Gamecocks (7-4) have lost to Elon, Clemson, Auburn and Vanderbilt.
“This time of year, you really want to start playing some good basketball,” Anderson said. “I think in a lot of areas we’re doing some good things. Now, let’s see if we can take that on the road and have a good showing from the start to the middle of the game to the finish of the game.”
Cleveland said he can sense the Razorbacks are ready to win on the road.
“This team, we need it,” Cleveland said. “We’re knocking on the door and I think we’re about to turn that corner.
“A few plays here and there, and we’d have a win on the road. We have to take the same mind-set we play with and just continue to fight and make some shots.”
Sports, Pages 23 on 01/26/2013