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January 16, 2013
Drive for 3-0
AUBURN -- Auburn entered Bud Walton Arena in 2003 with the Tigers in the midst of a six-game winning streak. Behind senior forward Marquis Daniels' 10 points and five rebounds, Auburn rode a second-half comeback to defeat Arkansas 52-37 to open conference play 2-0.
Ten years later, Auburn is 2-0 once again.
The team travels to Fayetteville Wednesday night to try and stretch their perfect Southeastern Conference record tonight at 7.
In Auburn's last three victories, each opponent attempted to disrupt the Tigers' offensive flow with full-court pressure throughout the game. Arkansas will do the same -- only it won't relent.
"Arkansas is just a different level," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "It's consistent and non-stop, especially at home where they'll press 90 percent of the time."
The Razorbacks are 9-1 this season at Bud Walton Arena and 17-2 all-time against Auburn at home. The only current player to win in Bud Walton Arena is senior Frankie Sullivan, with that 73-51 victory coming in the 2008-09 season.
"The seniors can harp on it," Wallace said. "It's crazy. The fans are heckling you all the time from the point you come out from warm-ups."¯
"It's one of the most brutal crowds," Chubb said. "I've already had people hit me up on Twitter saying they have a surprise for us."
The Razorbacks rely heavily on their two versatile scorers, sophomore guard B.J. Young and junior forward Marshawn Powell. Young is fourth in the SEC in scoring, averaging 17.1 points per game.
Powell, who didn't play against Auburn in either game last season, averages 14.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-7 forward gives Arkansas much of what Kenny Gabriel provided the Tigers last season: a flexible scorer that stretches the defense with length and long-range shooting.
"From that four spot, he's a very difficult matchup because he can play in the post very effectively,"¯ Barbee said. "And he can step in the perimeter and not only shoot behind the three-point line, but play off the bounce too. It's a tough matchup for us.ā€¯
Auburn' backcourt once again will be in the spotlight. With guards Chris Denson and Jordan Price out indefinitely each with stress fractures in their foot, Auburn's rotation is thin. Still, the emergence of freshman Brian Greene Jr. last Saturday against South Carolina gives Barbee three capable ball-handlers against Arkansasā' pressure.
Greene Jr. scored a career-high 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting against the Gamecocks and joins Sullivan and Wallace as the keys to undermining Arkansas' defensive plans.
Earlier in the season, it appeared like Auburn was feeling the pressure. A loss to Winthrop in the final game before Christmas break that dropped the Tigers to 7-6 seems like a distant memory, but senior center Rob Chubb said it was that moment when true chemistry began to build.
"Everybody thought it was going to a walk in the park because last year pre-SEC we had done really well," Chubb said. "Some of the games, like Winthrop, everybody walked in already planning on what they were doing after [the game.] We didn't have the mindset of a basketball team."¯
Only a two-point loss on the road to No. 10 Illinois keeps the Tigers from being perfect since the Winthrop loss.
"The thing that is weird is that it all of a sudden clicked,"¯ Chubb said. "All of the guys are pulling in the same direction. The chemistry came together, and guys started picking up where they hadn't been picking up. And now it's paying off."
Even with three consecutive wins and the first 2-0 league start in a decade, Barbee isn't letting his team forget those December losses.
"There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance," Barbee said. "Arrogance will do nothing but get you in trouble. Hard work has put us in this position and nothing else. So we can't get carried away with what we've done to this point. We've stubbed our toe too often in non-conference play, so we're not near where we need to be. We've got a lot of catching up to do."¯
Winning in Bud Walton Arena isn't an easy task. Wallace believes his fourth time will be the charm.
"They have a great home crowd, but there's nothing like hushing up a home crowd," Wallace said.