FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson has talked about the Razorbacks being behind in the SEC race since they lost their conference opener at home to Florida on Dec. 29.
"We're still behind in the race," Anderson said Tuesday. "There are people in front of us, and the only way we can catch up with them is we've got to outrun them. We've got to win ballgames."
Arkansas (16-5, 5-3 SEC) can catch Alabama (13-7, 6-2) for fourth place in the SEC behind Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida at the halfway point of the conference schedule with a victory over the Crimson Tide tonight in Walton Arena.
"We've got to make sure we take care of the home court," Anderson said. "We didn't do a very good job early on. We're getting better at it. That's a must."
Arkansas started 0-2 in SEC home games, including a 74-68 loss to Mississippi State, but since then the Razorbacks have won four consecutive conference games.
Oklahoma State stopped the Razorbacks' winning streak, beating them 99-71 on Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
"Obviously, we're disappointed with that performance," Anderson said. "But now we go right back into the race.
"We're in the hunt for something, something real special with this basketball team. The key now is we've got to have a short-term memory."
Anderson said he expects the Razorbacks to play with a high sense of urgency tonight as they have in recent SEC games.
"We're eight games into our conference, and we understand the possession game," he said. "A loose ball, a charge here, a deflection here, some free throws there. It's a thin line between winning and losing. I think we're starting to figure that out.
"We'll see if we've still got a hangover from the Oklahoma State game. I don't think we will."
Alabama, led by 6-8 freshman Braxton Key, has won four of its past five games and beat Mississippi State 71-62 at home Saturday.
Key is averaging a team-high 11.9 points on the season and 15.1 in SEC games. He scored 24 points against Florida, 19 against Georgia and 26 against Mississippi State.
"I think he's poised," Anderson said. "He doesn't have to go try to get the game. He scores in a variety of ways."
Key, averaging 6.0 rebounds, is shooting 44.5 percent (81 of 182) and has hit 22 of 59 three-pointers and 53 of 85 free throws.
"They have him playing on the perimeter from shooting threes to posting up," Anderson said. "He gets a lot on the glass. He gets to the free-throw line quite a bit."
The Razorbacks will try to speed up Alabama, which is 12-0 when holding teams to 62 or fewer points and 1-7 when allowing more than 62.
"The one way we manage it is we have to do a good job against all of their pressure, because there are about three different presses that they rotate between," Tide Coach Avery Johnson said. "If we do a good job of breaking the press -- knowing when to go in and score when we have numbers or when to bring it back out -- I think there's a balance there.
"We can't just play this game at fifth speed. That's just not our game. I think we're a team that when we're kind of fluctuating between third, fourth or fifth gear, we're a little bit of a better team."
Alabama is averaging 69.1 points and allowing 63.2 per game.
"I don't like to crawl the ball up the floor and play the game in the high 50s or low 60s," Johnson said. "But at the same time, in terms of our strength, when we're playing a really good defensive game and teams are scoring somewhere in the low to mid 60s, that gives us the best chance to win."
Arkansas is averaging 81.0 points.
"I think tempo is very, very important in this game," Anderson said. "We don't want a grind-out game. That will favor Alabama. So we want the tempo to be up."
Razorbacks junior guard Daryl Macon, averaging 15.0 points in SEC play, was held scoreless for the first time this season when he went 0 of 8 from the field and didn't attempt a free throw in 25 minutes at Oklahoma State.
"Hopefully, he'll be a guy that makes a comeback," Anderson said. "We can't have one of our top scorers not score."
Sports on 02/01/2017
Print Headline: Arkansas gets catch-up shot vs. Bama after lagging behind