Arkansas returns home with momentum after Vandy
Reggie Miller, Richard Hamilton and J.J. Redick, all of them helped Rotnei Clarke rediscover his scoring touch.
The result was a big road win for Arkansas and a little momentum heading into two more important games this week.
The Razorbacks (14-6, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) shot 57 percent in an 89-78 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday, earning their fifth conference road victory in four seasons under coach John Pelphrey. The Razorbacks were 4-23 under Pelphrey in SEC road games, but the strong shooting and Clarke's resurgence helped halt the trend.
''Obviously, we showed some maturity from not performing very well at points in time this season and then coming back and performing better,'' Pelphrey said. ''Now we'll have a chance to show maturity in the reverse.
''So, time will tell how we handle that.''
Clarke made 12 of 16 shots and finished with a season-high 36 points as Arkansas handed the Commodores their first home loss of the season. It was Clarke's second straight strong performance after an 0-for-3 outing in a 32-point loss at Florida last week.
The junior, third on the school's list for made 3-pointers with 238, was shooting 40 percent from the field following the loss to the Gators. That was down from 46 percent last season, a drop Clarke said was due to running through screens too fast rather than letting plays develop.
''I feel like the first part of the season I was trying to move so fast because I was being covered so tight or however they were guarding me,'' Clarke said. ''I was speeding myself up and just tried to slow down and be more patient and set up my cut and run off them tight and do different things like that.''
Clarke watched video of other top shooters to improve, including former Pacers guard Miller, and current guards Hamilton of the Pistons and Redick of the Magic.
The work paid off following the Florida loss, when Clarke scored 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting in a win over Auburn. Then he made 6 of 8 3-point attempts and 6 of 8 shots inside the arc against Vandy, raising his season shooting percentage to .437 in two games.
''I really didn't have any confidence issues,'' Clarke said. ''I've pretty much mainly trusted my shot throughout my career. I might have been down a little bit or frustrated, but the coaches told me I needed to focus more on getting my shots inside the 3-point line and that would open up if I took some shots or drove to the baskets a little bit more.''
Clarke said Pelphrey held a team meeting after the Auburn win and stressed the importance of the Vanderbilt game and winning on the road.
''He talked to us about how it was our decision for the season from here on out,'' Clarke said.
The Vanderbilt victory was Arkansas' 14th win, the same number it has finished with in each of the past two seasons.
Beginning with home games against Georgia on Wednesday and Mississippi on Saturday, the Razorbacks now are looking at a stretch of three of four games at Bud Walton Arena, where they are undefeated this season. For a change, they are coming home with a chance to move ahead in the SEC standings rather than just hoping to hold serve.
''I would anticipate they'll enter the game with a great deal of confidence, as they should,'' Georgia coach Mark Fox said. ''I think that they've won a couple in row, they beat a ranked team on the road and they're playing very well.''