FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas men's basketball coach Mike Anderson and the Razorbacks are aware of Alabama's recent resume.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson and the Razorbacks are aware of Alabama’s recent resume.
The Crimson Tide — which returned most of its key components from a team that went 12-4 in the Southeastern Conference last season — has lost four straight conference games. It’s a puzzling and frustrating slide for a group that opened the year 7-0 and climbed to No. 12 in the polls.
But Anderson also knows what it means for today’s game.
“I just know we’re going to get their best shot,” Anderson said. “They’ll be ready to play.”
Arkansas (15-5, 3-2 in SEC) wants to add to Alabama’s recent frustrations by collecting its first road win of the season in Coleman Coliseum today. The Razorbacks realize it won’t be an easy task, though, considering Alabama (13-7, 2-4 in SEC) is stewing after suffering three road losses (Mississippi State, Kentucky and South Carolina) and an embarrassing performance at home against Vanderbilt.
Alabama coach Anthony Grant challenged his team after Wednesday’s loss at South Carolina, telling the Birmingham News the Tide was “playing an entitled brand of basketball.” Grant also told the newspaper he would re-evaluate his coaching because “it consistently feels like winning is not the priority that it needs to be on our team.”
The sharp words have created plenty of buzz since the loss. Alabama will get its first chance to answer the criticism in front of a sellout crowd in Coleman Coliseum.
“They are probably going to come out swinging,” guard BJ Young said. “We are at their house and it’s a big rivalry and they lost four games in a row so they are probably going to come out with high intensity. We just have got to stick around and hold the game and pull it out at the end.”
That has been much easier said than done for the Razorbacks on the road. Arkansas is 0-5 outside Bud Walton Arena this season and have turned in some ugly performances in SEC play, losing at Ole Miss (71-63) and Kentucky (86-63).
Arkansas has had very little success in Coleman Coliseum, too, losing four straight and nine of its past 10. The Razorbacks are 5-15 in the building since joining the SEC.
Anderson said the Hogs can end the misery by excelling at the basics: defense, rebounding and free throws.
“It’s going to be a tough chore, but it’s an opportunity for our guys to go out and do something we haven’t done,” Anderson said. “We’ve won games at home. Now the next step is to go on the road and put yourself in position to win.”
Anderson said the first key will be getting off to a good start. It’s something the Razorbacks haven’t accomplished in road games this season. It didn’t happen its last time out, either, when Arkansas made 4 of 27 (14.8 percent) field goals in the first half of its 56-53 win against Auburn.
The Razorbacks will likely play without Marvell Waithe once again, leaving them with just eight scholarship players available tonight. But Arkansas guard Julysses Nobles said the Razorbacks are confident they can still beat Alabama.
“We just have to match their intensity,” Nobles said about the Crimson Tide. “It’s hard to win on the road. We just have to stay around and try and steal it.”
Anderson knows that doing so will require, perhaps, his team’s best performance of the season.
Alabama, after all, will be eager to end its four-game losing streak in front of its home crowd.
“You always talk about league games, sense of urgency, you hear those kind of adjectives to describe it,” Anderson said about Alabama’s situation. “There will be a sense of urgency, passion, leaving it on the floor. … Hopefully that’s going to be the Arkansas Razorbacks as well.”
Arkansas (15-5) at Alabama (13-7)
• When: 12:30 p.m. today
• Where: Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
• TV/Radio: SEC Network (KATV-7)/KABZ-FM 103.7
• SEC records: Arkansas 3-2; Alabama 2-4
• Series: Arkansas leads 28-24; last meeting Alabama 69, Arkansas 56 on Feb. 19
• Coaches: Arkansas, Mike Anderson (15-5 in first season); Alabama, Anthony Grant (55-34 in third season)