FAYETTEVILLE - Love is lovelier the second time around according to the old Frank Sinatra song, but not SEC basketball according to the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The second time around did not go well for Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks last Saturday in Columbia, Mo. against Missouri nor last Tuesday night in Fayetteville against Vanderbilt.
On Jan. 14 at Walton Arena Arkansas thumped Mizzou, 92-73 but lost 83-78 to the Tigers in last Saturday’s rematch.
On Jan. 24 at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym in Nashville the Razorbacks dramatically overcame a 6-point deficit in the final 49 seconds to win, 71-70.
Tuesday night’s lone Arkansas dramatics seemed to be if the Razorbacks, trailing 25-4 at 10:55, would attain double scoring figures by halftime.
They did, 39-18, but by way too large a deficit to overcome in the eventual 72-59 defeat.
Yet another rematch looms Saturday night. The LSU Tigers, beaten 99-86 by Arkansas on Jan. 21 at Walton, host Arkansas in Saturday night’s 7:30 p.m. SEC Network televised game at LSU’s Maravich Center in Baton Rouge, La.
LSU is 9-14 and 1-10 in the SEC. Arkansas fans should take no solace in that. Missouri’s Tigers were 0-9 in the SEC when they beat Arkansas last Saturday.
And at Walton, Arkansas outscored rather than out-defensed LSU.
The contest more resembled an AAU all-star game than a college conference game as Tigers Skylar Mays, Duop Reath, Brandon Sampson and Antonio Blakeney scored 22, 17, 15 and 14 points while Razorbacks Moses Kingsley, Anton Beard, Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford and Dusty Hannahs scored 24, 16, 15, 14 and 14.
“We have to get better defensively,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said after that LSU game in Fayetteville. “Tonight we were scoring the ball and I thought we got a way from what’s taken place in the last two ballgames when I thought our defense was pretty darned good. I thought tonight we kind of looked at the scoreboard and just outscored them.”
The Tigers are still scoring.
Blakeney poured in 31 as LSU kept Kentucky nervous before the nationally No. 15 Wildcats prevailed, 92-85 Tuesday night in Lexington, Ky.
Victories over LSU and Vanderbilt completed a 4-game winning streak extended to five in the SEC with the 87-68 Feb. 1 triumph over Alabama at Walton but was interrupted as an overall 5-game winning streak by the 99-71 SEC/Big 12 Challenge loss at Oklahoma State.
Though buffered by the victory over Alabama, that Oklahoma State defeat may have lingered more than was realized into the losses to Mizzou and Vanderbilt.
Did the Oklahoma State loss get them to thinking their at large chances for a NCAA Tourney bid were slipping away which indeed now are post the Mizzou and Vandy rematches.
“I don't think that was the thing,” Hannahs said after Tuesday’s game. “We've been pretty steady this year on taking it one game at a time. And I thought (after Alabama) we were feeling pretty good about ourselves we had come back from Oklahoma State. But I just think maybe after that Oklahoma State game, I don't know if disheartening is the word I can think of, I just think we didn't let a setback make us come back better. We've just let the setback become another setback. We've just got to get back in the gym and figure stuff out.”
One thing you have to figure is the opposition factor.
Missouri’s Tigers were hungry to win and inspired by the Rally for Ryan Day dedicating the game to Ryan Loos, the cancer-stricken daughter of Mizzou Brad Loos, an assistant to Mizzou Coach Kim Anderson.
Vandy one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country displayed by all five starters hitting from one to three of the Commodores’ 10 first-half threes, seethed from Arkansas escaping victorious from the game that Vandy appeared would win in Nashville.
“ Arkansas got us at our place and that definitely left a sour taste in our mouth,” Vandy Coach Bryce Drew said Tuesday. “Especially how well we had played up to the last three minutes of that game. I think with our experience, starting with our seniors, Nolan (Cressler) and Luke (Kornet), they were really excited, fired up to come back and have a chance to kind of right that wrong that happened a couple of weeks ago for us.”
LSU will have rematch incentives.
You would think the Razorbacks would, too, but they thought they had would have that against Vandy post Mizzou.
“The last (Mizzou) game should have been the biggest wakeup call ever,” Hannahs said Tuesday. “But this has got to be it for us.”