FAYETTEVILLE — For an SEC road-winless Arkansas Razorbacks team desperate to atone for a rare SEC Walton Arena loss two games ago to LSU, Gainesville, Fla. is a tough place to start.
But Gainesville and O’Connell Center, where Arkansas hasn’t won since Mike Anderson was an assistant for Nolan Richardson’s 1995 national runner-up team Razorbacks, marks the place for Anderson’s Razorbacks, 12-5 overall, 2-3 in the SEC, vs. the Florida Gators, 12-5, 4-1, in Wednesday's 6 p.m. ESPN2-televised SEC game.
Credit former Florida coach Billy Donovan and third-year Florida coach Mike White, seventh-year Arkansas coach Anderson said, for making the O’Connell Center a collective 0-12 for the subsequent Arkansas teams of Richardson, Stan Heath, John Pelphrey and Anderson.
“They’ve done what they’re supposed to do,” Anderson said. “They take care of their home. When Billy was there, he had some phenomenal teams. Of course, since we’ve been here, we’ve had some opportunities and just couldn’t finish it. Let’s hope this will be the time we can finish it. It’s all about hanging around and having a chance to finish.”
Though Florida did suffer its only SEC loss, 78-72 last Saturday at Ole Miss, Anderson knows it won’t be easy to hang around against White’s Gators that had won six consecutive games.
“Mike White really has those kids starting to get back that edge,” Anderson said. “We can see in conference play they are playing awfully well.”
Surprisingly, junior Gators guard KeVaughn Allen, the North Little Rock High alumnus and high school teammate of Arkansas senior guard Anton Beard and a 21 and 12 points catalyst for Florida sweeping Arkansas home and home last season, has not shot statistically up to snuff in SEC games. Allen only averages 6.6 points in his six SEC games and hit but 5 of 17 3s compared with his 5 of 9 treys at Walton last season.
“As a coach I know that can turn like a switch,” Anderson said of Allen snapping his slump. “Let’s just hope it isn’t this game. He’s a very, very good basketball player.”
Arkansas has more to fret than an Allen breakout game.
In SEC play, Egor Koulechov, the Gators’ 6-5 graduate transfer from Rice, averages a team leading 18 points,including 16 of 27 treys, and 7.8 rebounds while 6-8 forward Keith Stone averages 14 points, including 9 of 19 treys and 6.6 rebounds while point guard Chris Chiozza averages 11.8 points and sixth man Jalen Hudson, Florida’s leading scorer for all games averaging 16.2, averages 11.6.
Chiozza,, not only scores but distributes, a whopping 90 assists in 17 games. He and freshman reserve guard Mike Okaru, 12 of 25 treys, are 3-point threat. About all the Gators are it seems except for 6-9 blue-collar forward Kevarrius Hayes who last season hurt Arkansas with 10 points and six rebounds in Fayetteville and six points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots in Gainesville.
Anderson shook up the recently slow-starting Hogs by giving freshman guard Darious Hall of Little Rock Mills, 10 first-half points and four first-half rebounds, his first start against Mizzou and bringing off the bench star guard Daryl Macon, eight assists including the lob for Gafford’s game-winning dunk.
Asked if Hall would start again with either Macon, Beard or scoring leader guard Jaylen Barford off the bench, Anderson replied, “We’ll see how that goes.”
“I’ve got seven or eight starters and we’ll see what takes place in practice,” Anderson said. “I think no matter where he (Hall) comes from or where he plays from, he’s going to give us that kind of energy, and play with a sense of urgency and that’s what I’m looking for.”