Arkansas-Auburn Preview

Arkansas-Auburn Preview

Published Feb. 9, 2015 9:56 p.m. ET

Having relied on its defensive prowess lately, Arkansas appears on track for its first NCAA tournament berth in seven seasons. A strong showing on a road-heavy stretch will likely boost those hopes.

The No. 24 Razorbacks have a rare chance to even their record away from home this late in a season by beating Auburn on Tuesday night.

Arkansas (18-5, 7-3 SEC) has won five of six and taken its two games this month by a combined 40 points despite being help under 40.0 percent shooting in each.

That's because the Razorbacks forced 44 turnovers and allowed 29.2 percent shooting, including five 3-pointers on 34 attempts. They have given up 55.4 points per game and 35.4 percent shooting in their last five after allowing an average of 72.7 points on 44.8 percent shooting in the first 18.


"I think we're trusting each other," coach Mike Anderson said. "We were trying to win games with offense. ... Our guys are playing with maximum effort; they're taking pride in playing defense."

The Razorbacks allowed a season low in points in a 61-41 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday. They gave up nine points in the first half and matched a season high by forcing 24 turnovers.

Bobby Portis, who leads the SEC with 17.7 points per game, had his eighth double-double in nine games with 19 points and 11 rebounds. The team's second-leading scorer and the eighth-best in the conference, Michael Qualls, has been plagued with an ailing knee.

Qualls, averaging 15.1 points, had three on 1-of-9 shooting Saturday and is averaging 8.8 on 23.7 percent shooting in his last five games.

"He'll play, but he's not 100 percent," Anderson said. "I think it's a mental thing. You go out there and you just got hurt, in your mind you're thinking about if it happens again. He just has to play his way through it."

Qualls scored five points in the most recent road game, a 57-56 loss to Florida on Jan. 31 that dropped Arkansas to 3-4 away from home.

The Razorbacks will play five of their next seven on the road and will try to get to the .500 mark there this late in a season for the first time since they were 4-4 on Feb. 10, 1999. That was also their last season with four road wins.

Arkansas is 8-29 away from home in Anderson's four seasons.

The Razorbacks have won three in a row at Auburn as part of a seven-game winning streak in the series. Rashad Madden had a career-high 24 points in an 86-67 home victory Jan. 25, 2014, while Portis contributed 18 points and nine rebounds.

The Tigers (11-12, 3-7) enter this meeting having dropped five of six, including a season-high three straight at home.

Auburn is allowing an SEC-high 72.6 points in conference games and let Mississippi shoot 57.8 percent in an 86-79 home defeat Saturday.

Antoine Mason had 23 points to give him 47 in two games this month. Cinmeon Bowers, the conference leader with 11.1 rebounds per game, had 11 points and 13 boards to remain tied for the league lead with 14 double-doubles.

Auburn boasts the SEC's second-leading scorer in K.T. Harrell, who averages 17.5 points.