FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said he was “mystified” by his team’s struggles in its Southeastern Conference opener at Texas A&M.
Guard B.J. Young called it a “terrible” performance.
But in the moments after the 69-51 loss, both Anderson and Young said Arkansas had to put the disappointment behind them. There’s still 17 SEC games remaining.
“We didn’t do the things we had to do on the road,” Young said. “But we can’t do anything about this one anymore. It’s behind us. There’s another game.”
Arkansas (9-5, 0-1 in Southeastern Conference) will try to rebound from its conference-opening disappointment tonight, when it plays Vanderbilt (6-7, 0-1) in Bud Walton Arena at 5 p.m. It’s the SEC home opener for the Razorbacks, who are coming off their worst performance of the year in the Texas A&M loss.
So Anderson said he wants to see his team rebound against the Commodores.
“We have to defend the home turf,” Anderson said. “So this is a big and important basketball game for a lot of reasons. … Being in this business for this long, I know you have to have short-term memory. You have to learn and move forward.”
It won’t be easy to forget about Wednesday night’s loss, though. The Razorbacks were pushed around by Texas A&M throughout the SEC opener. The Aggies dominated Arkansas on the boards 51-27, turned 19 offensive rebounds into 21 second-chance points and held the Hogs to their lowest point total of the season.
It was a frustrating night all around for Arkansas, which was eager to prove it was capable of winning SEC road games after going 1-7 last year.
“I was disappointed,” Anderson said. “I thought we played with energy at times, but in the second half when they started getting physical and aggressive, I didn’t see the team that I thought we were becoming as of late in that particular game.”
Now the Razorbacks are trying to avoid an 0-2 hole in SEC play for the first time since 2008-09. It will take improvement in several areas to beat the Commodores, who suffered a 60-58 loss to Kentucky in their SEC opener on Thursday night.
Arkansas must be better at the free-throw line after going 4-for-15 against the Aggies. Forward Marshawn Powell, who was scoreless in just 12 minutes at Texas A&M, must be involved on both ends of the floor. And Arkansas has to solve its rebounding woes, which cropped up again after a recent run of success.
“We’re not going to panic, I know that,” Anderson said of his team’s struggles at Texas A&M. “We’re going in the right direction, but we took a step back.”
Anderson hopes Arkansas can begin to move forward against a Vanderbilt team coming off a 60-58 loss to Kentucky in its SEC opener. The Commodores look much different from the team Arkansas beat in Bud Walton Arena last season.
Stars like John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli have started professional careers. The new-look group is averaging under 60 points a game, but is led by guards Kedren Johnson (16.7 points a game) and Kyle Fuller (11.5).
“They’re a team now that, I think, they have to rely on each other now,” Anderson said. “Now you have a team that is dependent on more guys and that makes them a dangerous team. Their play has been up and down, but that’s a team that, again, we’re in SEC play and that’s a big game for them and a big game for us.”
nderson said he’s eager to see how his team responds as it steps on the floor three days after its ugly SEC opener.
“We want to be an elite program. We will be an elite program,” Anderson said. “Everything is a work in progress. We’ll continue to work. It’s going to happen.”
Vanderbilt (6-7) at Arkansas (9-5)
• When: 5 p.m. today
• Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
• TV/Radio: Fox Sports Net
• SEC records: Both are 0-1
• Series: Arkansas leads 17-9; last meeting Arkansas 82, Vanderbilt 74 on Jan. 31, 2012