Arkansas looking for more answers

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Arkansas' Ky Madden (00) receives an inbound pass against Missouri in the second half Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks lost 75-71.
Photo by Anthony Reyes
Arkansas' Ky Madden (00) receives an inbound pass against Missouri in the second half Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks lost 75-71.

FAYETTEVILLE - Mike Anderson has now suffered losses in Walton Arena as a head coach on both sides of the Arkansas-Missouri rivalry.

Anderson’s old Missouri team beat his Razorbacks 75-71 on Tuesday night in Walton Arena.

During Anderson’s second season as Missouri’s coach, the Razorbacks beat the Tigers 94-91 on Nov. 28, 2007, in Walton Arena during John Pelphrey’s first season as Arkansas’ coach.

The next season, Anderson led Missouri to a 31-7 record and an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

When Pelphrey was fired after the 2010-11 season, Anderson left Missouri - which he led to NCAA Tournament appearances his final three seasons - to return to Arkansas, where he was an assistant coach for 17 years.

Anderson had talked optimistically about his third season at Arkansas being a breakthrough time, but a return to the NCAA Tournament for the Razorbacks after a five-year absence doesn’t look promising after seven SEC games.

The Razorbacks (13-7, 2-5) fell to 11th in the SEC standings with their loss to Missouri. It was the second home loss for Arkansas, including an 84-82 overtime loss to No. 3 Florida.

That means the Razorbacks - 0-3 on the road this season and 2-21 in Anderson’s three seasons - need to get some victories away from Walton Arena while winning out at home to build the type of resume that will convince the NCAA Tournament selection committee they deserve an at-large bid.

Auburn is the only team Arkansas has beaten on the road under Anderson, and the Razorbacks don’t play at Auburn Arena this season. They beat Auburn 86-67 in Walton Arena in the teams’ only regular-season meeting.

Anderson was asked after the Missouri game if he could feel Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament hopes slipping away.

“I’m more concerned about us continuing to get better,” Anderson said. “I thought we took a half-a-step back from what we’ve been doing. I mean, we’ve been playing the game the right way, sharing the basketball, being in attack mode.”

Anderson said the Razorbacks played hard, but not as hard as Missouri.

“I thought we came out a little flat,” he said. “We didn’t have that energy that we normally do.”

Anderson said he didn’t know why the Razorbacks weren’t as energized as they usually are at home.

“I have no answer for that,” Anderson said. “When we did get it going, I thought when we had energy on defense and made some stops.

“I thought the crowd got into it, and we did some good things. We got to the freethrow line and were making one, missing one. It just seemed like we never got a rhythm.”

While the Razorbacks made 13 of 19 free throws, the Tigers were 22 of 27, including 16 of 16 in the second half - a testament to Missouri’s more aggressive play.

Arkansas hit a season-high 12 three-point baskets in 29 attempts, but Anderson said his team settled for too many jump shots and needed to look inside more, especially to 6-10 freshman Bobby Portis, who hit 6 of 9 shots and had 16 points.

“They played some man [defense], played some of the 3-2 [zone], and I just didn’t think we did a good job of getting the ball inside to Bobby so he could make some plays,” Anderson said. “Sometimes we had guys cutting to the basket, sometimes we didn’t.

“In the first half, I was cautioning our guys we were settling. I thought we were settling quite a bit.”

The Razorbacks trailed most of the game but took a 61-60 lead on sophomore forward Michael Qualls’ three point basket with 3:28 left before Missouri went on a 15-5 run to pull away.

“We’ve just got to continue to fight and get better every day,” said junior guard Ky Madden, who led Arkansas with 20 points. “That’s all we can hope for.”

One bright spot for the Razorbacks was the play of Qualls, who scored 16 points and had three steals off the bench. He made 6 of 13 from the field, including 4 of 8 three-pointers, after shooting 11 of 56 from the field and and 2 of 20 on three-point attempts in the previous six SEC games.

“I just wanted to come out and help my team, but I didn’t do enough,” Qualls said. “We just have to look forward and focus on finishing out the conference strong.”

The Razorbacks play LSU (13-6, 4-3) at 4 p.m. Saturday at Maravich Assembly Center, where the Tigers beat No. 11 Kentucky 87-82 on Tuesday night.

“We didn’t just get beat by just anybody. We got beat by a good basketball team that played well,” Anderson said of Missouri. “Now we’ve got to have short-term memory and get ready to go on the road and play LSU.”

Up next ARKANSAS MEN AT LSU WHEN 4 p.m. Central Saturday WHERE Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge RECORDS Arkansas 13-7, 2-5 SEC; LSU 13-6, 4-3 SERIES Arkansas leads 31-25 TELEVISION ESPNU RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network

Sports, Pages 17 on 01/30/2014