After finally earning its first win on the road, the Razorback men’s basketball team (14-6, 4-4) will welcome the Oklahoma State Cowboys (13-7, 3-5) to Bud Walton Arena as part of the annual Southeastern Conference/Big 12 Challenge games.
This is the second straight year the Razorbacks and Cowboys face each other in the challenge. On Jan. 28, 2017, the Hogs suffered a 99-71 loss in Stillwater, Oklahoma, one of their worst defeats of that season.
“That game’s over with. There’s nothing we can do about that,” Razorback coach Mike Anderson said. “Our guys are going to be ready to play no matter who it is.”
Redshirt senior guard Jeffrey Carroll dropped 20 points on the Hogs last season and is still the most dangerous scorer on their roster, averaging 16.2 points this season. A versatile player, Carroll can play at both the guard and the forward positions and is second on the team in rebounds with 6.2 per game.
“We got to make (Carroll) work for it,” Anderson said. “It’s a big game on our schedule. They’re still doing the same things they did last year. I’ve been very impressed with their team.”
Oklahoma State comes to Fayetteville after a tough 75-70 loss to Texas Tech on Jan. 23. The Cowboys had just beaten then-No. 4 Oklahoma 83-81 in overtime on Jan. 20 before the loss to the Red Raiders.
The Cowboys are one of the top teams in the Big 12 in forcing turnovers, pressuring their opponents to give the ball away an average of 15.5 times a game. However, the Razorbacks’ classic pressure defense is not too far behind them with 14.5 forced a game. The Hogs are also No. 22 in the country with the least amount of turnovers committed per game at 11.1, according to the NCAA stat log.
The Hogs are on cloud nine after beating the Georgia Bulldogs in a two-overtime thriller on Jan. 23 by a score of 80-77 after trailing the entire first half.
“I think it was a great road win, and we have to continue to prove people wrong,” senior forward Jaylen Barford said.
Anderson’s starting lineup has changed recently, and it seems freshman forward Darious Hall will continue to start ahead of senior guard Daryl Macon. Hall started over Macon in three previous games, all of which turned into wins for Arkansas.
Anderson said he thinks Macon coming off the bench gives him a chance to play with more energy and less pressure. As a whole, the bench has impressed Anderson the past two games and he said everybody on the roster brings something to the game.
“Whether it be points, energy, hustle plays,” Anderson said. “This team is developing, and as it develops you get more guys who going to be contributing in a consistent way.”
The senior guard duo of Macon and Barford were the leaders for the Hogs down the stretch against the Bulldogs. Similarly, this game against the Cowboys has the possibility to go right down to the wire, and senior guard Jaylen Barford said he isn’t afraid of putting the team on his back.
“I think I can make any shot I want to if I need to,” Barford said enthusiastically. “I think (Daryl’s and my) confidence right now is good for our team.”
The SEC has never won the Big 12 Challenge, but did get close last season. Both conferences took home five wins each in the 2016-17 challenge.
“Every year, (the SEC) has gotten better,” Anderson said. “This is a series that everyone keeps up with. It may set the stage for what takes place in postseason play. It’s a big deal.”
The game will tip off at 5:00 p.m. and will air live on ESPN2.