No. 22 Arkansas faces hot, motivated Auburn (Jan 06, 2018)
No. 22 Arkansas is not only coming off a tough loss at Mississippi State, it must next play Saturday on the road against one of the hottest teams in the nation, Auburn.
The Tigers are bent on proving people wrong about their chances amid the FBI probe that implicated former assistant Chuck Person.
Auburn, 13-1 and 1-0 in the SEC after winning at No. 23 Tennessee on Tuesday, is still playing without top sophomores Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy.
They are trying to get their eligibility certified by the NCAA after Person, who played a part in recruiting them, was arrested in September by the FBI on federal fraud charges.
Despite this controversy, Auburn is playing well, fueled by coach Bruce Pearl's motivational tactic of having his players believe they are not respected because of the turmoil.
Part of Pearl's subject matter is a CBS Sports article that predicted Auburn would finish 4-14 in the SEC. He wears a t-shirt that reads: "4-14" to practice reminding his players of the perceived disrespect.
"My message (to the team) was 4-14," Pearl said last week. "And they were like, '4-14? What's 4-14?' I said, well, CBS Sports has done their interview, and I read an article the other day that said they think we're going to go 4-14 in the SEC. So, I said, '4-14, guys. That's where people think. ... That's what CBS thinks of us.' So, I'm going to use that as motivation."
Arkansas (11-3, 1-1 SEC) is coming off a 78-75 loss at Mississippi State, which was picked by media in the preseason to finish 12th in the conference.
Senior guard Daryl Macon, who finished with 24 points, was called for traveling before getting off a 3-point with 8.2 seconds left. Freshman forward Daniel Gafford added 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
Arkansas was playing its first game as a top-25 team since March 2015. The Razorbacks came in averaging more than 90 points per game, but Mississippi State effectively slowed the pace.
"Mississippi State got some timely offensive rebounds and made some plays and we had some miscues going down the stretch," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "We've been better at that, and I thought we'd be better at it tonight, but it didn't happen. A couple turnovers took place."
The Razorbacks have proven to be tougher on the road under Anderson, going 8-4 in their last 12 SEC road games. They are 6-3 away from home this season, including 0-2 in true road games.
Anderson is 7-1 against Auburn, including a 4-0 mark in Auburn Arena.
"It's the next game on our schedule, so (the 4-0 record) has nothing to do with what takes place in this game," Anderson said. "It's a different year. We're a different team and they're a different team than last year.
"We just got to go on the road in a tough environment and play against a team that's playing with a lot of confidence. They play with a lot of emotion. They really get after it."
Auburn junior guard Bryce Brown scored 18 points and freshman forward Chuma Okeke scored nine of his 11 points in the second half on three 3-pointers in the last five minutes of the 94-84 win over Tennessee in Knoxville.
"Right now, we're playing with a huge chip on our shoulder," Brown said. "Showing everybody we can go play with anybody and knocking off a top-25 team was very big and the start of it."