FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas men’s basketball team found comfort in a familiar place Wednesday night, beating Auburn 83-75 to grab its first road win.
But coach Mike Anderson said he didn’t feel a sense of relief from his players after starting the year 0-8 outside of the state. Instead, he noticed something else.
“I just think they brought the effort,” Anderson said. “I think more than anything else, if you saw our team, I think you saw the same effort we had when we played Florida. And I think with effort you can do a whole lot of things.
“The energy was there. Guys were trusting one another. They played with the right mindset. They were moving the ball. They were screening for one another. They were defending, and so again, that’s the team we want to see from here on out.”
The Razorbacks are 5-27 outside of Bud Walton Arena the past three years and three of those wins have come in Auburn Arena. Arkansas had to dig down deep to earn Wednesday’s win, though, surviving forward Marshawn Powell’s early foul trouble, a two-point halftime deficit, and Auburn’s late charge.
The Razorbacks did so by relying on their familiar faces down the stretch.
Guard B.J. Young (25 points), Powell (20), Mardracus Wade (11) and Rickey Scott (11) played a pivotal role in Arkansas success against the Tigers. The four combined to score 67 of Arkansas’ 83 points. It included 44 of 50 points in the second half.
Anderson, who has long said a road breakthrough was coming for his team, believes the Razorbacks were finally tired of falling on the road. It paid off Wednesday.
“I think it’s them doing a little soul-searching, understanding that hey, when you’re out there on that floor, that sense of urgency, you’ve got to play with everything you’ve go,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to leave your all out on the floor.”
One road win doesn’t mean Arkansas’ struggles outside Bud Walton Arena have been cured. The Razorbacks earned a win at Auburn late last season, too, but still finished 1-7 in Southeastern Conference road games.
But Anderson hopes the Auburn performance will help the Razorbacks close the regular season strong. Arkansas — which plays Anderson’s former team, Missouri, in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday — has three more road games this season. The Hogs travel to Florida (Feb. 23), LSU (Feb. 27) and Missouri (March 5).
“When you get to this time of the year, you’ve got to leave it on the floor,” Anderson said. “I thought our guys did (Wednesday) night and hopefully it’s going to be something we’re going to continue to do.”
Portis earns honor
Arkansas signee and Little Rock native Bobby Portis earned a prestigious honor Thursday when he was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game.
The 6-foot-9 Portis, was one of 24 players named to the two teams. He also became just the 12th player to commit or play for Arkansas to participate in the game.
Portis is the first since Olu Famutimi in 2003. The others include Derek Hood (1995), Kareem Reid (1994), Darnell Robinson (1993), Corliss Williamson (1992), Lee Mayberry (1988), Todd Day (1988), Ron Huery (1986), Andrew Lang (1984), Joe Kleine (1980) and Ricky Norton (1980).
“I’m excited for him. I think that’s great news,” Anderson said. “That just shows the direction we’re going. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, and you’ve got to have players. We’re excited about he and (signee Moses) Kingsley both.”
The McDonald’s All-American Game will be played April 3 in Chicago.
There was a notable change in Anderson’s game day wardrobe at Auburn. He wasn’t wearing a tie. It coincided with the Razorbacks’ first road win of the season, but Anderson said Thursday he hoped no one noticed.
“It might work, I don’t know,” Anderson said about the change. “It looked like my guys were more relaxed, too, last night for a change.”
But Anderson was later asked if he didn’t wear a tie because he forgot to pack one for the road trip. He responded with: “Any other questions?”