FAYETTEVILLE — The last time these Arkansas Razorbacks won a basketball game so significant a weekend before their next weekend’s game, they proceeded to lay an egg.
Too many pats on the back, Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said of his Razorbacks’ inflating. The Hogs clobbered Connecticut, 102-67, closing the three-game Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 26. They then deflated start to finish on Dec. 2 in an embarrassing 91-65 loss to Houston in Houston.
Tonight in Arkansas’ annual visit to Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, the Razorbacks (7-2) host the 5-5 Troy Trojans of the Sun Belt Conference.
It marks Arkansas’ first game since last Saturday night’s 95-79 trouncing of then-14th-ranked Minnesota at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
So is Anderson concerned his Hogs might lay another egg coming off another pats-on-the-back-inducing victory, especially during a week with the team less involved in practice and more involved in the UA’s fall semester final exams, which didn’t end until Thursday?
“I think it’s a little different now,” Anderson said, both of tonight’s setting and what these Hogs have learned. “It’s always going to be a concern, but I just think guys have been through that before now. Hopefully, we’ll make sure our guys are aware we’ve got a basketball game.”
Anderson doesn’t anticipate Arkansas’ flat notes played in Houston reverberating tonight at Verizon. Senior starting guards Anton Beard (a North Little Rock High graduate) and Daryl Macon (a Little Rock Parkview graduate) are playing right at home as Razorbacks for the last time. Two senior forwards, Forrest City High graduate Trey Thompson and Dustin Thomas from just across the Arkansas line in Texarkana, Texas, are playing closest to their home for the last time.
“The seniors, this is their last go-around,” Anderson said. “The games are counting down on them. We’ve played nine games. They’ve got 22 games left. So it’s got to be important. Every game is a big game, especially with this type of schedule. The Troy game is just as big as the Minnesota game. And we want to build on some consistency. I think that’s the biggest key right there.”
Beard is thriving this season, but with ups and downs experienced on previous Arkansas teams that went 27-9, 16-16 and 26-10. He said much was learned from getting the heave-ho in Houston after conquering UConn in Portland.
“We did lay an egg in Houston,” Beard said. “That’s just part of learning. We felt like our defense didn’t travel. As long as our defense travels everywhere we go, we won’t have any problems.”
Remembering that the score of the last game doesn’t carry over to the next one always helps, too.
“That Minnesota game is over with,” Beard said. “Troy is the next opponent. We’ve just got to focus on them.”