Rebels’ run has Hogs’ guard up

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Arkansas sophomore Mardracus Wade works around Ole Miss freshman Jarvis Summers to the basket during the first half at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Arkansas sophomore Mardracus Wade works around Ole Miss freshman Jarvis Summers to the basket during the first half at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012.

FAYETTEVILLE - Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy and his Rebels have a shot to ruin another Arkansas senior night.

Kennedy has led Ole Miss to four consecutive victories in Walton Arena, including three in the regular-season home finale - 2009, 2010 and 2012 - when Arkansas’ seniors were honored.

The Rebels (17-12, 8-8 SEC) will be back in Walton Arena for the first time in two years to play the Razorbacks (20-9, 9-7) at 7 tonight.

Arkansas’ five seniors - forward Coty Clarke and guards Fred Gulley, Kikko Haydar, Rickey Scott and Mardracus Wade - will be honored in a pregame ceremony before the Razorbacks try to finish 16-2 at home.

None of the Razorbacks’ seniors has beaten Ole Miss.

“We’re definitely aware of that,” Haydar said.

Kennedy, who has a 10-3 record against Arkansas with six consecutive victories, downplayed his Walton Arena winning streak.

“I’d like to tell you that those prior four games would have some influence on our game [tonight], but unfortunately for us they will not,” Kennedy said. “Obviously, a different set of circumstances, different players, different timing.

“I think Arkansas is playing as well as anybody in our league having won five straight. They’re playing with a great deal of confidence, a real sense of urgency that you would expect as they’re closing in on trying to get into the NCAA Tournament.

“We know we’re going to have our hands full.”

Gulley will be facing Ole Miss in Walton Arena for the first time after transferring from Oklahoma State two years ago. In the only Arkansas-Ole Miss game last season, the Rebels won 76-64 in Tad Smith Coliseum.

“We’re a new team,” Gulley said. “We don’t really look back at the past. We just try to handle the things we can control, so we’re going to come out here and continue to play the basketball we’re playing and hopefully it ends with a [victory].”

Haydar, Scott and Wade are playing their third season for Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson after playing for John Pelphrey as freshmen. Clarke transferred to Arkansas from Lawson (Ala.) State Community College last year, and Gulley become eligible to play for the Razorbacks after the first eight games last season.

“These guys have given a lot of blood, sweat and tears and went through some adversity,” Anderson said of the seniors. “Now they’ve got an opportunity to go out in style.

“We challenged our players. ‘Let’s make sure these guys go out the right way.’ ”

The Razorbacks are 7-1 in their past eight games to bounce back from a 2-6 SEC start and have put themselves in position to earn the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 2008.

“We don’t want to over think things,” Haydar said. “We just want to focus on us. We don’t want to think, ‘Oh, if this team wins, this team loses, is that good for us? Is that bad for us?’

“We’re just worried about our game, and if we handle our business, none of the rest of that stuff matters.”

When Ole Miss last played in Walton Arena two years ago, the Rebels rallied from a 15-point deficit and beat the Razorbacks 77-75 on a three point play by Terrance Henry with eight seconds left.

“They stole one,” Anderson said. “I thought we just had a meltdown where we kind of handed the game to them.”

Ole Miss, 1-5 in its past six games, is getting scoring from guards Marshall Henderson (19.2 points) and Jarvis Summers (17.2), but it lacks strength inside with the loss of big men Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner from last season’s SEC Tournament championship team.

“We’ve struggled in a number of different areas, and it seems as if we put our finger in one hole and another one opens up, whether it be offensive inefficiency or inability to rebound,” Kennedy said. “Our biggest problem is that we’ve lost two guys up front that were pillars in our program for a number of years and we’re replacing them with younger and more inexperienced guys.”

The Razorbacks are getting production inside, outside and from their bench as they try to win six consecutive SEC games for the first time since 1998.

“One of the things that’s really helped us is people don’t care about their stats, who scores and all of that,” Haydar said. “We’re just trying to win basketball games. That’s how you win.”

Today’s game

ARKANSAS MEN VS. OLE MISS WHEN 7 p.m. today WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 20-9, 9-7 SEC. Ole Miss 17-12, 8-8.

SERIES Arkansas leads 41-30 RADIO Razorback Sports Network TELEVISION None telecast.

INTERNET ESPN3 TICKETS $25 lower and upper deck, $20 loft (west end zone above 4th row)

TUESDAY’S GAMES Florida 72, South Carolina 46 Kentucky 55, Alabama 48

TODAY’S GAMES Mississippi State at Georgia, 6 p.m.

Mississippi at Arkansas, 7 p.m.

Tennessee at Auburn, 7 p.m.

Texas A&M at Missouri, 7 p.m.

Sports, Pages 19 on 03/05/2014