Arkansas Men's Basketball:

Bracing for the race; Hogs confident despite 2-4 SEC start

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, January 19, 2018
Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford (0) drives to the basket as he is pressured by Missouri forward Jeremiah Tilmon (left) Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, during the second half in Bud Walton Arena.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford (0) drives to the basket as he is pressured by Missouri forward Jeremiah Tilmon (left) Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, during the second half in Bud Walton Arena.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A third of the way through the SEC season, the Arkansas Razorbacks find themselves 12th in the conference standings after losing 88-73 to Florida at the O'Connell Center on Wednesday night.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (12-6, 2-4) is ahead of only Texas A&M (12-6, 1-5) and Vanderbilt (6-12, 1-5) in the SEC race, but senior guard Jaylen Barford said he remains confident in the Razorbacks.

UP NEXT

Arkansas men vs Ole Miss

WHEN 2:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville.

RECORDS Arkansas 12-6, 2-4 SEC. Ole Miss 10-8, 3-3.

SERIES Arkansas leads 45-32

TELEVISION SEC Network

RADIO Razorback Sports Network

"As always, I feel like we're one of the best teams in the conference," said Barford, who scored a career-high 28 points at Florida. "We've just got to go back to the drawing board, practice and get ready to play Saturday."

Arkansas plays Ole Miss (10-8, 3-3) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Walton Arena.

The game is particularly critical considering the Razorbacks are 0-3 in SEC road games, suffered a home loss to LSU and have their next three conference games on the road against Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU.

Arkansas announced earlier this week that the Ole Miss game is a sellout.

"We need the fans," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said on his postgame radio show. "We need the crowd to come out and give these guys support, and I know our fans will."

Arkansas still has a high NCAA Ratings Percentage Index -- a formula based on a team's record and strength of schedule -- at No. 25.

The Razorbacks fell six spots in the RPI from No. 19 after losing at Florida (13-6, 5-1), which leads the SEC.

Arkansas still has a higher RPI than Florida, which is No. 36, thanks in large part to the Razorbacks' 92-83 victory over Oklahoma (No. 8) in Portland, Ore., and home victories over Tennessee (No. 14) and Missouri (No. 33).

Losses to North Carolina (No. 2) in Portland and at Auburn (No. 9) likely have boosted the Razorbacks' RPI as well.

"Arkansas as a program is very resilient," Florida Coach Mike White said. "They're going to keep coming.

"An Arkansas team, a Coach Anderson-coached team, they're going to just keep swinging and swinging and scraping.

"Fortunately we were able to make a bunch of shots."

Florida, which in conference play is leading the SEC on three-point shooting at 44.5 percent and three-pointers made per game at 10.8, hit 13 of 25 (52 percent) against Arkansas.

KeVaughn Allen, the Gators' junior guard from North Little Rock, hit 6 of 7 three-pointers and scored a season-high 28 points.

"I just thought we played defense sometimes on our heels, and they're capable of shooting the basketball," Anderson said. "They showed that earlier in the year.

"The games I've seen where they didn't shoot it well, then the flip side of it takes place. It goes hand in hand sometimes with shooting."

The Gators enjoyed a huge advantage at the free throw line thanks to their accuracy and the Razorbacks' continued struggles.

Florida hit 19 of 22 free throws, including 6 of 6 by Allen, who matched the Razorbacks' made total by himself.

Arkansas hit 6 of 15 free throws to fall to 65.6 percent (268 of 409) on the season and fell to 14th in the SEC and 318th nationally out of 351 teams.

Freshman forward Daniel Gafford had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Razorbacks, but was 2 of 5 on free throws and is now 13 of 31 in SEC games.

Barford hit 3 of 4 free throws, but the Razorbacks' top two shooters percentage-wise -- senior guards Daryl Macon at 83.1 and Anton Beard at 80.4 percent -- didn't attempt a free throw.

Beard played just 13 minutes -- all in the first half -- after suffering a right foot injury. Senior forward Trey Thompson was limited to six minutes because of a hamstring injury.

"We had some of our veteran guys go down, guys that are really important to our basketball team," Anderson said. "So we were kind of limited from that standpoint.

"All the things that take place on the road, you've got to be able to withstand some adversity, and we didn't do a very good job."

The SEC race so far has been unpredictable, notably with Auburn leading the conference until losing 77-71 at Alabama on Wednesday night to end a 14-game losing streak.

Kentucky blew a 14-point lead in the second half at South Carolina on Tuesday night, and the Gamecocks came back to win 76-68. Georgia won 61-60 at LSU on Tuesday night to drop the Tigers -- who are 2-0 in SEC road games -- to 0-3 at home. Missouri beat Tennessee 59-55 at home on Wednesday night as the Tigers' broke a 21-game losing streak against nationally ranked teams.

Texas A&M, which was ranked as high as No. 5 nationally before SEC play, defeated Ole Miss 71-69 at home to avoid an 0-6 conference start.

"Every night is going to be an adventure," Anderson said of the SEC. "I mean, that's what we're seeing.

"It's still early. We're six games into conference play, and there's 18. So strap it on and get ready.

"It's that balanced. On any given night, no matter where you play, anyone can beat anyone."

Sports on 01/19/2018

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