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.
Recent success lifts roadblock
But winning at Tuscaloosa still figures as arduous task
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson watches during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Lexington, Ky. Arkansas won 71-67 in overtime. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Arkansas hasn’t won at Coleman Coliseum since 2007, but trying to break a six-game losing streak on Alabama’s home court today doesn’t seem as daunting as it might have four weeks ago.
The Razorbacks are 3-1 in their past four road games after going 2-22 on the road under third-year Coach Mike Anderson, winning twice at Auburn.
The Razorbacks (21-9,10-7 SEC) started their road turnaround four weeks ago at Vanderbilt, then lost at Missouri by one point - the only loss in the past eight games.
Arkansas’ resurgence continued when it broke a 12-game losing streak against Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum, winning there two weeks ago for the first time since 2000. A victory at Kentucky followed five days later, Arkansas’ first at Rupp Arena since 1994, a span of nine losses.
The turnaround seems sudden, considering Arkansas started the season 0-4 on the road, but Anderson kept cautioning that the Razorbacks were close to breaking through, especially after losing 66-61 in overtime at Georgia and 81-74 at Tennessee.
“Our guys were competing,” Anderson said. “We were right there to win some games and we just didn’t finish. We talked about making plays going down the stretch. Now we’re starting to make those plays, whether it be offensively or defensively.”
Arkansas won 77-75 at Vanderbilt when Michael Qualls hit a three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left. The Razorbacks rallied at Kentucky to send the game into overtime, then won 71-67, hitting all six free throws in the extra period and finishing 16 of 16 from the line.
At Mississippi State, the Razorbacks built a 15-point lead and then hung on to win 73-69. They lost 86-85 at Missouri when Ky Madden’s driving attempt missed with two seconds left.
“There’s been some carryover,” Anderson said. “Our guys are having a better understanding of what to do and making the right decisions.”
Wednesday night’s 110-80 victory over Ole Miss has Arkansas’ confidence soaring. They hit 17 of 30 three-point attempts while forcing 18turnovers and led by as many as 46 in Fayetteville.
“Whenever you shoot the ball like that, you put up numbers like that, it gives us a lot of confidence going into the next game,” senior Mardracus Wade said. “At the same time, we have to stay humble. We can’t get the big head just because we’ve won a couple road games.”
The Razorbacks have won six consecutive SEC regular-season games for the first time since 1998. If they win today, it will be their first seven-game SEC winning streak since the defending national champions closed the 1994-1995 regular-season with seven victories.
“Arkansas is really playing as good as any team in our league right now,” Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said.
The Crimson Tide (12-18, 6-11 SEC) are 0-11 on the road, struggling as the Razorbacks did the previous two years.
“I think sometimes you just need to get a break or two here or there and win some games and gain some confidence,” Grant said of the Razorbacks’ road reversal. “I think they’re a product of that.”
Alabama - 12-4 at home with losses to No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Wichita State, Xavier and Tennessee - will honor All-SEC senior Trevor Releford before his final home game.
Releford, averaging 18.6 points and sixth on the Tide’s all-time scoring list with 1,838 points, is from Kansas City, Mo., and attended Missouri’s summer basketball camps when Anderson was the Tigers’ coach.
“I’ve known him for quite a while,” Anderson said. “He’s without a doubt one of the better guards, not only in our league, but the country. We know it’s going to be an emotional night for him. He’ll probably have one of those Senior Nights out of this world, but we’ve got to limit the other guys so they don’t have big nights.”
Florida 72, South Carolina 46
Kentucky 55, Alabama 48
Arkansas 110, Mississippi 80
Georgia 66, Mississippi State 45
Tennessee 82, Auburn 54
Missouri 57, Texas A&M 56
LSU 57, Vanderbilt 51
All times Central
Kentucky at Florida, 11 a.m.
Vanderbilt at Mississippi, 12:30 p.m.
Arkansas at Alabama, 3 p.m.
Auburn at Texas A&M, 3 p.m.
Missouri at Tennessee, 3 p.m.
South Carolina at Mississippi St., 3 p.m.
Georgia at LSU, 4 p.m.
End of regular season
ARKANSAS MEN AT ALABAMA
WHEN 3 p.m. today
WHERE Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
RECORDS Arkansas 21-9, 10-7 SEC.
Alabama 12-18, 6-11 RADIO Razorback Sports Network
TELEVISION No telecast
Sports, Pages 21 on 03/08/2014