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Arkansas set to face Auburn

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By Nate Allen

Special to the News-Times

FAYETTEVILLE - Dating back to John Pelphrey’s final SEC season of 2011 preceding current Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, the Razorbacks are 5-0 against the Auburn Tigers in Auburn, Ala.

Take nothing for granted that the nationally No. 22 Razorbacks (11-3 overall/1-1 in the SEC) will prevail in today’s 5 p.m. ESPNU televised SEC game against coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers (13-1, 1-0) Saturday at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.

Nothing looks to be taken for granted in a league that begins with its highest ranked team, No. 11 Texas A&M, starting 0-2 in the SEC, while nationally 23rd Tennessee is 0-2 after losing last Saturday at Arkansas and then at home Tuesday night to Auburn while No. 22 Arkansas was losing 78-75 at unranked Mississippi State, which was followed Wednesday night by Kentucky barely escaping unranked LSU 74-71 in Baton Rouge, La.

“I think it's probably more balanced than it's ever been from top to bottom,” Anderson said

“And you think about a team that everyone thinks is at the bottom, but very, very talented in Vanderbilt (a victor Tuesday over Alabama). Kentucky squeaked one off of LSU the other night. So it just tells you the balance of our league. Whether it be at home or on the road, man, you've got to come with it. And you've got to play good basketball for 40 minutes.”

Certainly the Razorbacks can’t rely on their last five games at Auburn to guarantee them a triumph tonight.

“That has nothing to do with what’s going to take place in this game,” Anderson said. “They are a different team and we are a different team than last year. We just have to go on the road in a tough environment and play with a lot of confidence and a lot of emotion and really get after it.”

Mississippi State’s foul-inducing 17 offensive rebounds spelled its victory difference over Arkansas in Starkville, Anderson said, and Auburn crashed the boards for 22 offensive rebounds while outrebounding Tennessee 46-38 in its 94-84 upset win at Knoxville, Tenn.

“The thing they're doing really well is attacking the glass,” Anderson said.

“They had 22 offensive rebounds against a Tennessee team that I thought they matched up pretty well with.

“As they got those offensive rebounds they had a lot of kick-outs where guys were knocking shots down. So it's a team that's playing well.

“They will be playing their first SEC home game. So there will be a lot of emotion going on in that game. We've got to match the energy, no question about it.”

Auburn has outrebounded all but one opponent in 14 games, yet its tallest starter, Anfernee McLemore, is only 6-7 with the other starting forward, DeSean Murray, listed 6-3.

“You think about the Murray kid, he's 6-3, but he’s a wide body,” Anderson said. “McLemore is an athletic, gifted player. Of course (Horace) Spencer (the 6-8 reserve with 10 points and nine rebounds against Tennessee) had a big game the other night. So I think they just do it by committee. They rebound as a team and they can see when the shot is going up and they just fly to the glass. They shoot it and go get it.”

Another Auburn 6-8 reserve, Chuma Okeke, scored 11 points against Tennessee.

Auburn’s off-the-bench production concerns Arkansas because after Arkansas’ bench did much to propel the Razorbacks through their 10-2 non-conference start, Arkansas’ bench was outscored 33-5 by Tennessee reserves and 15-14 by Mississippi State’s reserves in their SEC games, though Arkansas sophomore reserve forward Adrio Bailey did score 10 points with six rebounds and a steal in 18 minutes.

“That’s the Adrio I’ve seen in practice,” Anderson said, noting he needs to grant other reserves the ample opportunities afforded Bailey in Starkville.

“It (the bench) is the strongest component of our basketball team and I’ve got to trust them more.

“You look at the game last year down there (at Auburn). I thought guys coming off the bench was the biggest different in the game. Trey Thompson (the 6-9 reserve and Forrest City High grad) had 11 rebounds and played extremely well. Arlando Cook (eight points four rebounds and a blocked shot) coming off the bench. Daryl Macon (24 points) came off the bench and played well. So we had a lot of contributors off the bench.”

Both often in and out of the early-season starting lineup last season as junior college transfer guards, seniors Macon, Arkansas’ second-leading scorer averaging 17.2 points, and leading scorer Barford, 18.7, have started every game this season.

Four Auburn starters, Bryce Brown, Mustafa Heron, Jared Harper and Murray, average from 15.9 to 10.6 points.

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