Arkansas hopes home comfort continues vs Vandy

Mardracus Wade let out a ”there it is” as soon as the

basketball left his right hand.

A split-second later, the ball swished through the basket inside

Bud Walton Arena during the Razorbacks’ practice Monday afternoon –

once again showing comfort level Wade and his teammates have at

home this season.

Arkansas (15-6, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) has yet to lose in

Fayetteville this season, including wins over a pair of ranked

teams – then-No. 15 Mississippi State and No. 20 Michigan.

The 15-0 mark is the best for the school since it had the same

mark for the entire 1997-98 season, during which first-year coach

Mike Anderson was an assistant for the Razorbacks under former

coach Nolan Richardson. The only other Arkansas squad to finish a

season undefeated in the arena was the 1993-94 national

championship team.

This season’s home success has come from a most unlikely group,

one that began the season with only 10 scholarship players – four

of them freshmen. Even now, down to eight scholarship players

following injuries to leading scorer Marshawn Powell and senior

Marvell Waithe, the Razorbacks have found a way each and every time

out at home under Anderson.

And that’s still with the four freshmen heavily in the mix –

with BJ Young coming off the bench to lead the team in scoring

(14.4 points per game) following Powell’s injury.

”We wake up every day knowing that this is where we come in and

this is where we do what we do best,” Wade said. ”Coach `A’

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.”

Arkansas will put the perfect record on the line once again

against a ranked opponent when it hosts No. 25 Vanderbilt (16-5,

5-1) Tuesday night. The Commodores have won 10 of 11, with their

only loss during that stretch an overtime defeat to Mississippi

State.

Vanderbilt is second in the SEC in 3-point shooting (40.3

percent) and is 4-1 on the road this season, including a win at

then No. 13 Marquette on Dec. 29.

”We’ve been good on the road,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin

Stallings said. ”That needs to be something we’re consistent with

and sustains itself throughout the year.”

It could be a difficult task against the Razorbacks, who lead

the SEC by forcing an average of 17.7 turnovers per game.

”It’s a very difficult place to play,” Stallings said. ”I

think with the style that they play and Mike coaches, they get

extra energy – especially a young team is going to get extra energy

from the crowd. That tends to amp up your defense and they’re so

good at turning people over.”

Anderson has talked all season about taking pride in Arkansas’

pressing, frenetic defense, the same style he used at Missouri.

That defense was particularly on display while building early

double-digit leads in the wins over Mississippi State and

Michigan.

While the defense-first formula has worked at home this season,

the Razorbacks have yet to bring that magic with them on the road.

They are 0-6 away from Bud Walton Arena, including a ”home” loss

to Houston in North Little Rock.

That includes a winless road mark in the SEC, one that continued

with a 72-66 loss at Alabama on Saturday. Arkansas was close until

the final few minutes against the Crimson Tide, but Alabama shot 50

percent to overcome 18 points from the Razorbacks’ Rickey

Scott.

As the road losses continue to pile up for Arkansas, so does the

pressure to remain perfect at home and somehow snap a three-year

stretch of missing the NCAA tournament. While Anderson wants to

find a way to eventually win on the road, he’s more focused on

peaking as the season winds down.

”Now we get another opportunity to play against a very good

basketball team here in Bud Walton Arena, and we want to hold serve

at home,” Anderson said. ”We want to take care of the home court,

but to me it’s another opportunity to get better.”

AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed

to this report.