FAYETTEVILLE -- Visits from LSU and Missouri were good news for other SEC basketball teams last season.
LSU and Missouri each finished 2-16 in SEC play, and they were a combined 1-17 on the road. The only road SEC victory between them came when LSU won at Missouri.
Things have changed this season.
The formerly toothless pair of Tigers are a combined 5-1 on the road, including 3-0 in the SEC.
LSU improved to 2-0 in SEC road games with a 75-54 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks in Walton Arena on Wednesday night.
Missouri (12-4, 2-1 SEC) will try and hand the Razorbacks (11-5, 1-3) another home loss when the teams play at 5 p.m. today in Walton Arena.
The Tigers broke a 36-game road losing streak when they won 62-59 at Central Florida on Nov. 11, then they broke a 32-game SEC road losing streak with a 79-68 victory at South Carolina on Jan. 3.
Until Missouri won at Central Florida, the Tigers' last road victory had been over the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville 75-71 on Jan. 28, 2014.
LSU has won at Memphis and Texas A&M in addition to Arkansas.
"To me, it's just another sampling of how competitive our league is," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said of the improvement by LSU and Missouri. "Whether you play at home or on the road, you have to come with it.
"If you don't, then what took place with us here the other night, that can happen."
Missouri was expected to be much improved with the recruiting class put together by new Coach Cuonzo Martin, but the Tigers have been winning without freshman forward Michael Porter Jr., a preseason first-team All-American.
Porter -- whose father is a Missouri assistant coach -- has been sidelined with a back injury since playing the first two minutes of the opener against Iowa State.
The Tigers beat the Cyclones 74-59, proving immediately they're far from a one-man team.
"We've done a good job," Martin said. "I think things would be different if Mike had played several games and then you lose him, but when he hasn't played, I don't think it was that big of an adjustment.
"It's not as if you've lost 20 or 30 points a game because he's not in the fold. I think the guys have done a great job of continuing to stay the course and get better."
Senior guard Kassius Robertson, a graduate transfer from Canisius, and senior forward Jordan Barnett are each averaging 15.4 points to lead Missouri. Junior forward Kevin Puryear is averaging 9.6 points.
The Tigers also are getting big contributions from 6-10 freshman Jeremiah Tilmon (9.1 points); 6-11 freshman Jontay Porter (8.8 points, 7.0 rebounds), the younger brother of Porter; and junior guard Jordan Geist (7.3 points).
Missouri's nine-man rotation also includes junior guards Terrence Phillips and Cullen VanLeer, and sophomore forward Nikko Reed.
"They've got some talented freshmen and they're old," South Carolina Coach Frank Martin said. "Cuonzo's done a heck of a job molding the new guys with the old guys, getting them to buy into what he teaches."
At previous stops, Cuonzo Martin led Missouri State to a Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship, and Tennessee and California to the NCAA Tournament.
"I think Cuonzo has done a really good job of going in there and getting those guys to play how he wants them to play," Anderson said. "That's always important.
"They're playing with a lot of energy. They're playing defense. They're shooting the basketball well."
Florida won 77-75 at Missouri last Saturday on a last-second steal and layup by Chris Choizza, but Gators Coach Mike White came away impressed by the Tigers.
"They're a completely different team," White said. "They're playing with a bunch of confidence and togetherness. They really move the ball. They spread you out and execute their stuff. They've got a high skill level. A bunch of guys that can make multiple threes in a game.
"They're really tough and competitive defensively to complement that. They're just a really good team."
Arkansas is looking for its first victory since beating Tennessee 95-93 in overtime in Walton Arena two weeks ago.
"I think the thing that really is going to help our basketball team is we've got to get an injection with our defense," Anderson said. "That's got to be the key.
"We've got to get back to playing like the way we played early in the year. We had started trusting one another and the ball was moving. We shared the ball and when we scored, our defense went up another level."
Anderson said the Razorbacks need to do a better job of getting the ball inside -- especially to 6-11 freshman Daniel Gafford -- and driving to the basket than they did against LSU.
"We didn't start off inside," Anderson said. "We've got to be a team that starts inside-out, and that's not just necessarily throwing the ball in. We've got to attack the basket and create easy opportunities for ourselves."
Anderson said he's not surprised at how Missouri has played without Porter.
"A lot of teams, that's when they play even better, because when you don't have someone, it gives other guys opportunities to showcase what they're doing," Anderson said. "When you play team basketball and guys are trusting one another and sharing the basketball, helping each other on defense, boy, it makes the game simple."
Arkansas also started 1-3 in SEC play last season when Missouri visited Walton Arena for the next game and the Razorbacks beat the Tigers 92-73.
Bouncing back at home against Missouri doesn't figure to be as easy tonight.
WHEN 5 p.m. today
WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS Arkansas 11-5, 1-3 SEC
Missouri 12-4, 2-1
SERIES Arkansas leads 25-22
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
POS., NAME, HT., YR. PPG RPG G Kassius Robertson, 6-3, Sr. 15.4 1.9 G Jordan Geist, 6-2, Jr. 7.3 3.8 F Jordan Barnett, 6-7, Sr. 15.4 6.2 F Jeremiah Tilmon, 6-10, Fr. 9.1 4.6 F Jontay Porter, 6-11, Fr. 8.8 7.0 COACH Cuonzo Martin (12-4 in fi rst season at LSU, 198-125 overall in 10 seasons)
POS., NAME, HT., YR. PPG RPG G Jaylen Barford, 6-3, Sr. 18.8 4.2 G Daryl Macon 6-3, Sr. 16.3 2.6 G Anton Beard 6-0, Sr. 11.1 2.5 F Daniel Gafford 6-11, Fr. 11.8 6.1 F Dustin Thomas 6-8, Sr. 4.5 4.2 COACH Mike Anderson (139-79 in seven seasons at Arkansas, 339-177 overall in 16 seasons)
Missouri Arkansas 78.0 Points for 86.3 66.6 Points against 75.7 +7.8 Rebound margin -0.1 -2.2 Turnover margin +3.9 47.8 FG pct. 49.6 39.5 3-PT pct. 38.7 74.9 FT pct. 67.2 CHALK TALK Tonight’s game is a sellout, Arkansas announced Friday. … Missouri freshman Jontay Porter made his fi rst start of the season against Georgia on Wednesday night and had 15 points and 10 rebounds going against Bulldogs senior big man Yante Maten, who had 8 points and 2 rebounds. … Arkansas lost its fi rst home game of the season 75-54 to LSU on Wednesday night. … The Razorbacks most recently lost back-to-back home games last season against Florida and Mississippi State during a 1-3 SEC start. … The Razorbacks, who have lost three consecutive games for the fi rst time since the 2015-2016 season when they had a pair of three-game losing streaks, never have lost four games in a row in Mike Anderson’s seven seasons as their coach. The last time the Razorbacks lost four or more games consecutively was when they ended the 2009-2010 season with a six-game losing streak. … Missouri forward Mitchell Smith, a sophomore from Van Buren, is redshirting this season as he recovers from knee surgery. … Since Anderson became the Razorbacks’ coach, he’s 6-4 against Missouri, where he coached the fi ve seasons previous to taking the Arkansas job. … Anderson was 111-57 at Missouri.
Sports on 01/13/2018
Print Headline: Doormats no longer welcoming