With former coach and national champion Nolan Richardson watching from the stands, Arkansas laid out their own “40 Minutes of Hell” to sink Vanderbilt, 82-74, Tuesday night at the Bud Walton Center in Fayetteville, Ark.
Rickey Scott led the Razorbacks with 18 points, and four others scored in double figures, overcoming a two-point halftime deficit to improve to 16-6 overall and 4-3 in the SEC.
The win lifts Arkansas to an impressive 16-0 in true home games.
“We wake up every day knowing that this is where we come in and this is where we do what we do best,” guard Mardracus Wade told the Associated Press before the game. “Coach [Mike Anderson] always talks to us and tells us, ‘You may go on the road, you may go this place or that place, but the most important thing is protecting your home.’ … Playing here is like bread and butter.”
Consider that the Razorbacks are doing this without junior Marshawn Powell, who tore ligaments in his knee on Nov. 17.
Filling the scoring void has been impressive freshman BJ Young and his 14 points per game.
Much of the credit goes to Anderson’s system, which utilizes his athletic lineup to pressure teams and force turnovers (10th in the country at 17+ game), and translates that into points. And it’s no wonder why that fast pace and success at home go hand-in-hand.
In a 90-second stretch under the 15-minute mark of the second half against Vanderbilt, back-to-back-to-back three-pointers, ignited by Arkansas’ transition offense, set the Bud Walton Center ablaze and gave the Razorbacks the lead that they would never relinquish.
But that strong record at home, which includes wins over No. 22 Michigan and No. 19 Mississippi State, is balanced by their 0-6 record on the road and at neutral sites. As a bubble team, they are going to have to win a few on the road to squeeze their way into the NCAA tournament.
Three of the next four will be on the road, against LSU, Georgia, and Tennessee. Even by winning out at home, the Razorbacks would finish with 20 wins. Is that tournament material, even with a weak Pac 12?
Steal one on the road against Auburn, Georgia, or another, combined with a full home (or near-full home) sweep, and the Razorbacks could be in business in March.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_