By Nate Allen
Special to the News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas coach Mike Anderson begins tonight’s rematch with the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Miss., stressing a Razorbacks search party to locate Ole Miss guard Terence Davis.
The Razorbacks (17-8 overall, 6-6 in the SEC), 97-93 victors over the Rebels on Jan. 21 at Walton Arena in Fayetteville, and Rebels (11-14, 4-8) tip off at 6 p.m. tonight on the SEC Network at The Pavilion.
“We played them earlier in the year and we were able to outlast them,” Anderson said Monday.
Though up 50-38 at half, the Razorbacks know they survived more than thrived that second half at Walton.
Davis, a junior guard, rallied the Rebels while scoring a game-high 30 points including 5-of-8 3-point shots.
Seldom has Anderson seen a scorer more distinctly prominent so difficult for his team to find.
“First of all, we've got to find him in transition,” Anderson said of what his Hogs must do against Ole Miss tonight in Oxford that they didn’t do in their meeting in Fayetteville. “Offensively, they're going to run a lot of stuff through him, and he does a good job of getting to the basket and making some tough, tough shots. I think he probably had about four threes that he was just spotting up. … Whether or be a loose ball or … we leave him wide open and he's making us pay. He's important to what they do.”
The man most important in directing what Davis and the Rebels do, 12-year Rebels coach Andy Kennedy, was reported Monday by multiple media outlets, including the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, to be stepping down from his Ole Miss command after this season ends.
“Well I don’t know if the rumors or whatever it is are true and going, but obviously Andy is a great guy and a good friend of mine,” Anderson said Monday. “He played at UAB (the University of Alabama-Birmingham was Anderson’s first head coaching job after 17 Arkansas years assisting Nolan Richardson) so I know him from there and in the coaching ranks. He’s done a fantastic job. I have nothing but admiration for him and I obviously wish him the best. If he’s not coaching Ole Miss, he’ll be coaching somewhere.”
Anderson knows Kennedy coaches tonight and that despite the Rebels losing their last five games, they always seem on against Arkansas.
Aside from Davis, Rebels starting guards Breein Tyree (16 points) and Deandre Burnett (15 points), and starting forwards Bruce Stevens (15 points) and Marcanvis Hymon (a team-leading eight rebounds) played well against Arkansas at Walton.
“Any time Ole Miss and Arkansas play, you know those games are going to be intense,” Anderson said. “They are going to go down to the wire.”
Arkansas sophomore forward Adrio Bailey, sitting out the Razorbacks’ 72-54 SEC victory over Vanderbilt because of the flu, didn’t practice Sunday and will be monitored until game time before his availability is decided.
Senior Dustin Thomas or freshman Gabe Osabuohien, grading well for his blue-collar play off the bench in Arkansas SEC wins at Walton last week over South Carolina and Vanderbilt, are the likely either-or starting power forward against Ole Miss with the other one and senior Arlando Cook off the bench.
Cook, sophomore guard C.J. Jones, freshman guard Darious Hall, a starter then and recently coming off the bench, and senior big man and Forrest City High grad Trey Thompson and senior point guard Anton Beard, five assists, all played key supporting roles against Ole Miss behind Arkansas’ Big Three, senior guards Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford and 6-11 freshman Daniel Gafford of El Dorado.
Macon (21 points), Barford (16 points) and Gafford (16 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots) all starred last Saturday night against Vanderbilt and starred Jan. 21 against Ole Miss.
Barford scored 28, while Macon scored 13 with five assists and Gafford double-doubled with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
While Arkansas and Ole Miss combined for 190 points in Fayetteville, Macon predicted tonight’s outcome hinges on defense.
“We’ve got to bring our hard hats and play together as a team,” Macon said. “If we go on the road with a defensive mindset first, we’ll come out with a win.”