GAME NOTES: The Auburn Tigers will try for their first SEC victory of the season on Saturday afternoon when they head to Bud Walton Arena to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Auburn's non-conference slate of games went rather smoothly with eight wins in its first 11 bouts, but since entering league play it has gone into a tailspin with five consecutive losses. The Tigers most recently dropped an 82-74 decision at Mississippi State on Wednesday night to remain winless in four road contests.
Arkansas has also struggled in SEC play, losing four of five league games, including an 81-74 setback at Tennessee on Wednesday. The Razorbacks are still in the midst of an impressive season overall at 12-6 thanks mostly to their outstanding play on their home floor (10-1).
The Razorbacks hold a 30-16 advantage over the Tigers in the all-time series, which includes wins in six straight meetings in recent years.
Despite running out to an 8-0 lead over Mississippi State less than four minutes into their most recent contest, the Tigers quickly lost control, as they went into intermission trailing by nine and never held a lead in the second half. They shot a strong 48.3 percent from the field on the evening, but they were ultimately done in by getting outscored at the foul line, 31-12. KT Harrell paced all scorers with 24 points, draining 4-of-8 from 3-point range in the process. Tahj Shamsid-Deen poured in 17 points, while Asauhn Dixon-Tatum (12 points, 13 rebounds) and Allen Payne (12 points, 10 rebounds) both registered double-doubles.
Auburn's offensive attack this season has been stellar, as it shoots 45.5 percent from the field for 73.6 ppg, but it has been hindered by the SEC's worst scoring defense (71.4 ppg). Harrell puts up 19.3 ppg, which is tied with Missouri's Jabari Brown for tops in the league, and he boasts strong percentages from the field (.476), 3-point range (.429) and the foul line (.843). Chris Denson is hot on his heels with 18.9 ppg on 48.4 percent from the floor. Dixon-Tatum only nets 6.9 ppg but is a force in the paint with 6.4 rpg and 1.9 bpg.
The Razorbacks played a tight battle with Tennessee earlier in the week, as the teams played to 10 ties and 15 lead changes, but the Hogs could not step up down the stretch as they fell in the seven-point decision. They outshot the Vols from the field, 43.1 percent to 40.7 percent, but they were a mere 11- of-17 from the free-throw line, compared to 30-of-38 for UT. Coty Clarke tallied 16 points and nine rebounds to lead the way. Rashad Madden posted 15 points and eight boards, while Fred Gulley and Kikko Haydar added 11 and 10, respectively.
Despite its lackluster play of late, Arkansas still leads the SEC in scoring, netting 82.8 ppg on 45.9 percent from the field. It also plays impressive defense in allowing just 69.5 ppg thanks largely to its outstanding +6.4 turnover margin. The balanced squad is paced by the efforts of Madden (11.9 ppg), Michael Qualls (11.8 ppg) and Bobby Portis (11.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg), while Alandise Harris (9.8 ppg) and Clarke (9.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg) are on the doorstep of double figures. The team boasts a deep bench, with a total of 11 players averaging at least 3.6 ppg.
Arkansas has been a streaky squad of late but it has undoubtedly been outstanding at home, with its only loss at Bud Walton Arena coming to nationally-ranked Florida (84-82 in OT). Against the struggling Tigers, the Razorbacks shouldn't have to break much of a sweat to claim a victory.
Game Date and Time