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Hogs Seek 1st Win at Rupp since '94

Bobby Portis says an Arkansas win over Kentucky on Thursday will be "a wake up call for the Hogs around the nation."
Razorback basketball team trainer Dave England was on the bench when the Hogs last won a game at Kentucky's Rupp Arena but several of the current Razorbacks had not yet been born back then.

"Dave likes to talk about it a lot," freshman forward Bobby Portis said with a grin. "After our win on Saturday against Mississippi State Dave told me in the locker room, 'It's been twenty years since we won at Rupp. So if we go in there and pull off a victory it'll be big for our state and for us."

"We aren't on anyone's bubble or anything right now," Portis continued, "so if we go out there and win I think that will be a wake up call for us around the nation." 

Arkansas actually has a two-game winning streak going against the Kentucky and holds a 2-1 record over John Calipari's 'Cats during the Mike Anderson era but the head Hog has no illusions about the difference in beating them at home and on the road.

"Somehow we've got to figure out a way to negate their home court advantage," Anderson noted, "where we can go in and make it an advantage for us. How do you do that? Go in and play some of your best basketball you've played all year."

The Hogs appeared to be doing just that in winning five of their last six SEC games, digging themselves out of a 2-6 start in the process. "Everybody's playing great defense," sophomore guard Michael Qualls explained. "Everybody is getting after everybody. It resembles more of the '94 team. How we get after people. The fastest 40 minutes and all that."  

As always Anderson hopes his team can load up on points off turnovers but when the Razorbacks find themselves in a half court game effective long range shooting will be huge. Guards Mardracus Wade and Anthlon Bell struggled from behind the arc for much of the season. Both appear to be coming out of their slumps at the right time of the season. Bell noted that Anderson never gave up on him and he never gave up on himself.

"I just stayed in the gym a lot," Bell recalled. "I prayed about it with my dad. Me and him talked a lot about it so I just had to stick with it instead of just going backwards."

On the defensive end Anderson knows his guys will need to do a better job of keeping Kentucky's guards from penetrating into the paint while keeping the 'Cats big front line from dominating the glass. Doing those things without fouling is crucial to Arkansas' chances for road win number three on the season.

"Early in the year we were putting teams on the free throw line an average of maybe thirty-five times in a game," Anderson said with a grimace. "The last time we played these guys there were eighty-one free throws in the game. That was fixable. It's something, you talk about it, you watch it on film, you look at the stats. Cutting down on it (fouling) comes with experience." 

There is one more thing Anderson may turn to in the game, something that has nothing to do with conventional strategy. In both of his team's road wins this season Anderson has left his tie back home on the rack. Will he do the same for Kentucky?

"You might be on to something," Anderson told the Razorback Nation's Alyssa Orange following the Hogs' win over Mississippi State. "I like that idea."

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