Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Lack of progress turns into trend for Auburn
Auburn's Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, left, tries to block out Arkansas' Bobby Portis after a foul shot Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, during the second half of the game against Auburn at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Auburn came into Walton Arena looking for its first SEC victory of the season.
The Tigers are still searching, and may be for a while.
If you think the Arkansas Razorbacks have had trouble winning on the road, they look like road warriors compared with the Tigers since Tony Barbee took over as their head coach.
Barbee had one decent year and one good year - although he lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament - at Texas-El Paso before leaving for Auburn, where he is 12-40 in SEC play.
He’s 39-64 overall, and this is his fourth season.
Barbee became so frustrated last season with a 9-23 overall record and a 3-15 SEC mark, the worst since he arrived, that he wanted to fire Chuck Gallina, the longtime basketball sports information director.
Gallina is one of the good guys in his profession and doesn’t have an enemy. He also had no turnovers or missed shots.
Instead of firing Gallina, Auburn officials reassigned him to sports information director for football. The Tigers went to the BCS Championship Game, so it seems pretty safe to say he wasn’t the problem.
Barbee, who played and coached for John Calipari at UMass, where he will be inducted into the school’s hall of fame, is the problem.
Auburn doesn’t have to make a change if it is happy with being known as a football school and only a football school.
Oh, sure, the basketball fan base has shrunk and tickets are plentiful so money is being left on the table, and no doubt ESPN isn’t happy with the Tigers’ results, which may explain why Saturday’s game was on FSN.
Some of that was the Hogs’ fault with their 1-4 start, but they have been involved in three overtime games, including one that ended with a victory over Kentucky.
Auburn also has lost at Mississippi, Tennessee and Mississippi State and at home to Florida and Missouri.
That’s not progress in your fourth season. In fact, it is a bad trend.
Despite being athletic, Auburn doesn’t protect the ball. The players take bad shots, don’t pass well and their defense is mediocre at best.
Other than that, the Tigers aren’t awful. Although they did lose to the Hogs, who for the first time this season didn’t play that well at home, though the second half was much better than the first.
In the past two years the Razorbacks have won two road games, both at Auburn.
Arkansas spent more than six minutes in the first half playing like they were on the road, but not at Auburn.
After jumping out to an 8-0 lead, the Razorbacks went scoreless for 5:58, which against most teams could have been devastating. Not against Auburn, which has some talent and athletes but seemed out of control and out of focus.
The Tigers managed to tie it at 10-10, but they were having trouble scoring inside and out. That didn’t change their thought process, though. They put up enough bricks to build the Hogs the practice gym they want so much.
Then, with just more than seven minutes to play in the first half, the Razorbacks went on the attack. They forced the tempo of the game and rallied, mostly behind freshman Bobby Portis, who seemed to finally discover he is allowed to get in the paint in SEC play.
The Razorbacks led 36-25 at the half, and there was little doubt the Tigers would find the answers during intermission.
Auburn would get it to less than 10 a few times, but it had no answer for the Hogs offense, which clicked at the right times.
Razorbackers who are frustrated with the Hogs’ road woes should note that in Mike Anderson’s third season the Razorbacks are better than when he arrived.
Not sure you could say the same for Barbee and Auburn.
Sports, Pages 21 on 01/26/2014