FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas enjoyed an emotional high with its memorable 87-85 overtime win against Kentucky in Bud Walton Arena.
Coach Mike Anderson said it was well deserved. The Razorbacks went toe-to-toe with the talented Wildcats, survived some frustrating moments, then delivered the knockout blow on guard Michael Qualls’ game-winning dunk.
But Anderson stressed something else as his team returned to practice Thursday.
“That game’s over with,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to make sure our guys understand. … You’ve got to have short-term memory in this line of work.
“Even as a player, Kentucky game has nothing to do with the Georgia game.”
Arkansas basketball spent most of Wednesday in the sports spotlight because of the dramatic finish against the Wildcats. While the attention was nice, the Razorbacks didn’t waste any time turning their thoughts to the next test at Georgia.
Anderson said it’s vital his team concentrates on changing the road woes — not thinking about Kentucky — as it takes to the road. Georgia may not be ranked like Arkansas’ previous two opponents, but opened Southeastern Conference play with wins against Missouri and Alabama before Tuesday’s loss at Florida.
So Anderson is reminding his team of the flaws that plagued them during the SEC opener against Texas A&M and wants the Razorbacks to fix them.
“My biggest point to our guys is going to be, ‘Did we learn something from on the road the last time?’” Anderson said. “That’s, to me, the taste I’ve still got in my mouth is we missed 14 layups (at Texas A&M). I thought we played with … nerves were going. And so, now, how do we go out and perform this time?”
Arkansas guard Fred Gulley said moving on to the next challenge won’t be difficult.
The Razorbacks just did it after what he said was “such a low” moment following the Florida loss. The motivation to avoid another stumble hasn’t disappeared.
“Just because we came out and beat Kentucky, that didn’t erase this bad taste we have in our mouths,” Gulley said. “We’re still hungry. We’re still wanting to go out and prove everybody wrong.”
Arkansas took Wednesday off, which came in handy considering the Kentucky game was the longest of the season. The Razorbacks also played consecutive overtime games for the first time since 1995 and both came over the span of four days.
Guard Ky Madden said Arkansas was a little sluggish when practice resumed Thursday, but wasn’t alarmed coming back from the day off. He said the back-to-back overtime games shouldn’t have affect the Razorbacks as they go on the road.
Overconfidence could, though. Anderson said it may have been Arkansas’ biggest downfall in its first road game at Texas A&M. The Razorbacks entered the game by winning seven straight and were convinced the run would continue at Texas A&M.
Madden believes Arkansas has learned plenty of important lessons after the disappointing performance. And in its home games. So he’s confident the Razorbacks will be ready even though their road woes are well known.
“I feel like we’re a different team,” said Madden, who is averaging 17.7 points a game in SEC play. “We’re going to fight hard and we’re going to play hard and we’re going to come together and we’re going to try to get this win.”
There’s renewed life after Arkansas avoided an 0-3 hole in SEC play.
Anderson said that’s good news. But building on the win is the only thing that matters now as Arkansas prepares to play at Georgia on Saturday.
“I think this team’s hungry,” Anderson said. “I think our guys are hungry, but we’re also going to be playing against a team that just lost a game to a Florida team that’s playing well, too. You’re going to have two teams that are hungry and get after each other. … I think our guys will be ready to play.”