By Nate Allen
Special to the News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas Razorbacks fret that Oklahoma State’s Jeffrey Carroll might repeat last year’s game against them today, while the Oklahoma State Cowboys crave for Arkansas’ Daryl Macon to repeat his performance against them last year, but dread him repeating his last game this week.
Arkansas (14-6) and Oklahoma State (13-6) clash at 5 p.m. today on ESPN2 at Walton Arena as one of 10 Big 12/SEC Challenge games on a televised long day’s journey into night.
The SEC lost the first three SEC-Big 12 Challenges 6-4, 7-3, 6-4.
No thanks to Arkansas, the SEC fought to a 5-5 draw for last season’s SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
Though last season’s Razorbacks under Mike Anderson finished 26-10 and advanced two rounds deep into the NCAA Tournament, Oklahoma State obliterated them 99-71 in their Big 12/SEC Challenge game at OSU’s Gallagher-Iba Hall in Stillwater, Okla.
Carroll, 6-6 with the quickness of a guard and the power of a forward, scored 20 on Arkansas last season, including 8-of-10 from the free-throw line.
The OSU senior leads his team with a 16.2 scoring average this season, which has increased to 17.2 for the Cowboys’ seven Big 12 games.
“Carroll obviously is an All-Conference player and scored in double figures (averaging 17.5) for them last year,” Anderson said. “He's a guy that can step out and shoot the basketball, and he's a guy that gets to the hole. He gets a lot of offensive rebounds. He gets to the free-throw line quite a bit, so we've got to really pay attention to him, whether we're man or we're in a zone.”
The Cowboys have other weapons like starting junior guard Tavarius Shine, who is averaging 11.4 points per game after an injury ended his season at six games.
Starting guard Brandon Averette, 6-9 forward Mitchell Solomon and off-the-bench guard Kendall Smith, a graduate transfer from California State-Northridge averages 10.8 points, but Anderson prefers taking chances letting them try and beat Arkansas rather than guard Carroll business as usual.
“We've got to make him one of those guys that tries to make other people better,” Anderson said. “Make him distribute the basketball. We’ve got to be where he is and make it very, very difficult for him to score.”
Macon, the Arkansas senior guard from Little Rock Parkview who is averaging 16.3 points, scored 16 during the two overtimes while leading Arkansas with 25 points after his scoreless first half in last Tuesday’s 80-77 SEC road victory at Georgia.
That’s the Macon that OSU coach Michael Boynton fears, but Anderson didn’t see last season in Stillwater.
“Daryl didn’t play well at all,” Anderson said of last season in Stillwater.
“I don’t even know if he scored in that particular game (Macon didn’t, going 0-for-8 from the field with no free-throw attempts). We had a bunch of guys that didn’t play well. But this is a different team and hopefully it’s a different focus.”
Revenge isn’t usually stressed as a basketball motive, but these Hogs haven’t forgotten how badly they were stilled in Stillwater.
“Obviously we remember that loss,” said Trey Thompson, the Arkansas senior reserve forward and Forrest City High grad whose blocked shot with two seconds left finally thwarted Georgia. “It was probably the worst loss we had last year as a team. We're just looking forward to getting a chance to play them again and come out and get better.”
With fellow senior guard Jaylen Barford, who had 24 points against Georgia and 23 against Ole Miss, often setting Arkansas’ early pace, Macon has been doing his damage off the bench. In its last four games, Arkansas won three springing Macon off the bench and lost with him starting against Florida. Macon’s second half especially proved pivotal against Georgia.
“He turned a switch on in the second half,” Anderson said.