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Are Hoop Hogs Primed For A Stretch Run?

With six games left in the SEC race the Razorbacks think they are ready to finish strong.
FAYETTEVILLE--Coming down the stretch in SEC play Razorbacks appear to have winnable games in two of their three remaining road trips. Mississippi State (Sat. February 22) currently sits at the bottom of the league standings, Alabama (Sat. March 8) is one from the bottom. Home games against South Carolina, Georgia and Ole Miss each look promising. With a 5-1 finish the Hogs would finish 10-8. With a decent showing in the SEC tournament they still might secure an NCAA bid.

The remaining schedule is just part of the reason why Mike Anderson is excited about his team's chances down the stretch. He likes the way Arkansas recently finished games against Vanderbilt and LSU. Yet in spite of a breakthrough road win over the Commodores and a late game-winning surge vs the Tigers, Anderson says his players have their heads on straight going into Wednesday's home game against South Carolina.

"I just feel like our guys believe that we're still behind the eight ball," Anderson told reporters on Monday. "We lost some games that we felt we were in control of and didn't finish. So we want to continue that mode of starting out, playing through the middle and finishing, finishing in fine fashion."

Junior guard Ky Madden believes that in spite of a one point Saturday road loss Missouri the Razorbacks show all the signs of a team ready to finish strong.

"I feel like we're clicking now," Madden told reporters. "We're playing together. We're playing smart. We're playing hard and that's all you can ask for. Every night I feel that every player goes out and leaves it all on the floor."

If the Hogs are to finish strong Anderson says senior forward Coty Clarke needs to stay out of foul trouble. Against LSU Clarke managed to stay in the game with four fouls and ended up with 16 points, 4 assists and 9 rebounds.

"He's a calming force," Anderson said of Clarke. "He's also one of those guys that with his offense he can extend a defense so it's important we not have him in foul trouble as much."

Another positive sign is the play of junior Alandise Harris who has become more aggressive in the paint since returning from a one-game suspension. Harris spotted a hole in LSU's defense with 9:43 remaining in the game and exploded to the rim with a thunder dunk that ignited the crowd. The Hogs outscored the Tigers 24-14 after that.

"It turned up the intensity on the defensive end," Clarke noted. (From that point) "We were able to make plays on the defensive end. That and our rebounding lead to some easy points."

Anderson is not taking South Carolina lightly in spite of the Gamecocks' 3-9 SEC record.

"They've won two in a row," Anderson noted. (Head coach) "Frank Martin's teams are intense. They're going to defensively really get after you, challenge you physically, aggressively. Get up in the lanes and you're going to have to make plays against them."

South Carolina is lead by freshman Sindarius Thornwell, the current SEC player of the week, who averaged 20.5 p.p.g. in wins over Vanderbilt and Alabama last week.
Game time is set for 8:00 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena. CSS will provide the telecast.

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