FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas defeated its highest-ranked opponent since 1999 when the Razorbacks beat No. 2 Florida Tuesday, but the team’s road struggles continued Saturday against Vanderbilt.
The Gators lost 80-69 to Arkansas in a week of basketball that ended with four of the nation’s top five teams (Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Kansas) falling victim to shocking upsets. Unfortunately for Arkansas, the road Razorbacks were anything but surprising at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn. The Razorbacks were defeated 67-49 by the Commodores and remain winless away from the Natural State this season.
“This whole road losing streak has been frustrating,” Arkansas captain Kikko Haydar said. “And it’s not just frustrating for me. It’s frustrating for all of us. We want to win. That’s what it boils down to. We work really hard and this is another game, another opportunity.”
Perhaps one of the biggest issues for Arkansas on the road has been playing without its other captain, Marshawn Powell. The redshirt junior forward is averaging 3.88 fouls per game when the Razorbacks are playing outside of the state, including fouling out in three of those games and logging a season-low 12 minutes of play in the conference-opening loss to Texas A&M, when he finished with four fouls.
“I thought some of the fouls he got were ticky-tack reach-in fouls,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said of Powell’s foul trouble against Vanderbilt. “Move your feet as opposed to your hands. I think that’s something he’s got to be aware of and know his importance to our basketball team to put himself in that position.
“You have to have some tough mentality kind of guys to go on the road and win,” Anderson added. “Not only that, you have to have some coaches on the floor. That leadership can’t sit on the bench and Marshawn was sitting on the bench in that particular game. I think about as a player, even coaching here, the players are the guys that really make it happen on the road.”
The Commodores were also the first team to keep both Arkansas’ leading scorer, BJ Young, and Arkansas’ second-leading scorer, Powell, out of double figures this season.
“There aren’t many games you’re going to have BJ and Marshawn combine for 12 points and have a chance to win; unless it’s a just a game where everybody else is lights out,” Anderson said. “They’re responsible for about 30 points a game and we scored 49 last game. We just didn’t shoot the ball well and we have to get more productivity out of those guys.”
Arkansas (14-9, 5-5 Southeastern Conference) is averaging 84.4 points per game at home this season, but has scored nearly 30 fewer points (54.8 points per game) in road conference games.
“We need to do what we have to do to take our home court play to the road and try to do that for 40 minutes and not just 15 or 20,” Young said. “I think we’ll be fine. We just have to get the ball in the hoop by getting some continuity going on offense and trying to get some easy steals and transition that lead to easy buckets.”
Arkansas plays Auburn at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Auburn Arena. Anderson’s only road win as the Razorbacks’ head coach came at Auburn Arena last season when Arkansas won 77-71.
The Razorbacks and the Tigers met earlier this season at Bud Walton Arena, as well. Auburn (9-14, 3-7 SEC) took Arkansas into double overtime, but the Razorbacks came out with an 88-80 win in the matchup.
“We’re going to be playing a team that is hungry and we’re going to have to play a tremendous game to come out with the win,” Anderson said. “I’m looking forward to our guys going and hopefully getting the taste out of their mouth after what happened at Vanderbilt.”