FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson isn’t worried about Anton Beard.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson isn’t worried about Anton Beard.


The freshman endured a rough moment in the closing seconds of the 74-69 loss at Tennessee on Tuesday night, missing three free throws that would’ve tied the game. But Anderson has been around the guard enough to know the missed opportunity won’t plague him as the Razorbacks move forward in conference play.


"Anton is going to be fine," Anderson said. "I think you have got to be in those situations in order to learn from it and he put us in position to have an opportunity to tie that game. So next time, I’m sure he’ll be a guy that will go up there and knock them down. Hopefully it won’t be a situation where we have to make three free throws, but he put us in position to have a chance and that’s all you can ask for."


Beard will get another opportunity when the 19th-ranked Razorbacks (13-3, 2-1 in SEC) play Ole Miss (10-6, 1-2 in SEC) in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. The freshman has earned a bigger role in the Arkansas backcourt with his play the past few weeks and remains a big part of Anderson’s plans.


In fact, Beard’s play off the bench was key to Arkansas’ frantic comeback in the closing minutes against the Volunteers. He had a career-high 12 points, 3 assists and a steal in 18 minutes. He went 3-for-4 behind the 3-point line, including a bucket with 13.9 seconds left that helped the Razorbacks close to within 70-69.


Beard’s heads up play gave Arkansas the chance to tie the game as well. After Tennessee made two free throws with 13 seconds left, Beard got the ball and dribbled across midcourt where a defender fouled him. Beard appeared to get off a shot and was awarded three free throws with 5.1 seconds left.


He missed the first free-throw attempt. He missed the second, too. Beard missed the third intentionally, but Tennessee grabbed the loose ball and wrapped up the win.


"We knew he was nervous at the line," Arkansas guard Anthlon Bell said. "You could tell. We just told him to keep his head up."


No one blamed Beard, though. Instead, Anderson and the Razorbacks said their sloppy play and defensive struggles were the reasons for their first loss since Dec. 7.


Arkansas committed a season-high 18 turnovers, the Vols shot 56.5 percent in the second half and the Hogs trailed by as much as 16 before their late push. It wasn’t enough for Arkansas to start SEC play 3-0 for the first time since 1998, though.


"He was one of the main reasons we stayed in the game," Bell said. "He came in and was making big stops defensively, knocking down shots. … We can’t have him get down just off of one game. There’s so much more basketball to be played."


Anderson made sure Beard understand that immediately after the game.


He also pointed to what Beard — who is averaging 4.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists — has given the Razorbacks in his first season.


"I told him, ‘Hey, man, you played your butt off. You put us in that position. I love your toughness. I love your heart,’" Anderson said. "And if we can get everybody playing with the same kind of heart he plays with, you’re talking about a dynamite team because we would be a dynamite team."


Beard showed what type of impact he can have on the road in Arkansas’ 79-75 win at Georgia in the SEC opener. He was on the floor for the final 14 minutes, helping the Razorbacks hold off the Bulldogs in his SEC debut.


It didn’t go as well for Beard in the final seconds at Tennessee when he missed an opportunity to tie the game. But the Razorbacks are confident it won’t linger.


"He’s a tough kid," Arkansas guard Michael Qualls said. "He came in and gave the best performance that you can give. He showed up. He showed up with his heart. He’s a freshman and he’s never been in that type of situation before. Of course everybody wears everything on their heart because everybody wants to win, but he put us in that situation. If he’s playing like that we’re going to be all right."