FAYETTEVILLE — Guard Kikko Haydar doesn’t know if Arkansas’ history in Auburn Arena really matters when it plays the Tigers tonight.
It’s a different year. The Razorbacks are a different basketball team.
But after experiencing so much frustration on the road this season, it’s nice to know Arkansas has enjoyed success somewhere.
“We’ve won there before,” Haydar said Monday. “It doesn’t hurt. … We’ll definitely have confidence going into it.”
A program grasping for anything that may help lead it to a road win will gladly cling to one interesting fact before tonight’s game at Auburn. The Razorbacks (14-9, 5-5 in SEC) — as bad as they’ve been outside of Bud Walton Arena the past few seasons — are 2-0 against the Tigers (9-14, 3-7 in SEC) in Auburn Arena.
It included last year’s 66-61 victory, which has proven to be Arkansas’ only win in 18 tries outside the state during Anderson’s two years with the Hogs.
It’s a streak the current team, which watched the momentum from last week’s home win against Florida evaporate with an awful road performance at Vanderbilt last Saturday, wants to continue as the Razorbacks try to get back on their feet.
But Anderson doesn’t want his team thinking about past success in Auburn Arena to accomplish it. He wants them to concentrate on the things it takes to win road games. Those are things Arkansas has struggled to accomplish this season.
“We have to play for 40 minutes,” Anderson said. “We have to get off to a good start and be in the game throughout the game. We have to shoot the ball well and get to the free throw line as much as they do. We have to take care of the basketball.
“But you have to put the ball in the hole and you have to defend, obviously.”
Those fundamental principles for road success have been big problems for the Razorbacks on the road all season. The proof is in the statistics.
Arkansas is averaging 78.6 points and is shooting 47 percent from the field in its five SEC home games. The numbers dip to 54.8 points and 37.1 percent on the road.
Opponents, meanwhile, average 69.2 points and have made 44.4 percent of their shots at home against the Razorbacks. Those numbers are down to 62.4 points and 41.2 percent when they travel to play in Bud Walton Arena.
It’s a synopsis of why Arkansas is 5-0 in SEC home games and 0-5 on the road.
“We always feel like we can beat anybody anywhere,” said Arkansas guard B.J. Young, who is averaging 17.4 points at home and 11.4 away in SEC games. “We have to go do it. We can’t just expect anything to come to us or happen for us. We have to make it happen like we’ve been doing at home and we want to continue that, to protect the home court and take this show on the road. That’s really our main focus.
“I know we can do it. I know we’re going to have a breakthrough sooner, but we’ve just got to go make it happen.”
It won’t come easy at Auburn despite the Razorbacks’ success in the Tigers’ new arena. Auburn pressed the Razorbacks to two overtimes when the teams met earlier this season, eventually suffering an 88-80 loss in Bud Walton Arena.
Auburn was 2-0 in conference play at the time, but is 1-7 since. Coach Tony Barbee said he was proud of the way his team fought in Fayetteville, but wants them to protect their home court now in the return game against the Razorbacks.
“They play a different style on the road,” Barbee said of Arkansas. “They’re not as aggressive as they are at home. I think that’s probably the biggest difference.”
Arkansas understands it has to change as college basketball moves closer to the postseason. The Razorbacks — who have lost at Texas A&M, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Alabama, Vanderbilt — have road trips remaining at Florida, LSU and Missouri remaining after tonight’s test at Auburn.
So the opportunities for road success are running out.
“It’s a process you have to go through,” said Anderson, who is 1-12 in conference road games with the Razorbacks the past two years. “When you come in and rebuild your program, you’re trying to do it the right way. As painful as it is, you have to go through it. We can sit up here and talk about it all day long. There’s a breakthrough and I think we’re closer to that breakthrough than we have been all year.”
Arkansas (14-9) at Auburn (9-14)
• When: 8 p.m. today
• Where: Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.
• TV/Radio: Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast/KABZ-FM 103.7
• SEC records: Arkansas 5-5; Auburn 3-7
• Series: Arkansas leads 29-16; last meeting Arkansas 88, Auburn 80 (2OT) on Jan. 16