This article originally appeared in the March 5, 2013 issue of The Arkansas Traveler.
Mike Anderson returns to Columbia, Mo., Tuesday for the first time since leaving Missouri two years ago, but he said he sees it as an important Southeastern Conference game.
Missouri comes into the game with a 21-8 overall record and tied for fourth in the SEC with a 10-6 conference record. The Razorbacks are 18-11 and one game behind the Tigers with a 9-7 conference record.
A win would put Arkansas in fifth place in the SEC, as they would own the tiebreaker with Missouri.
“It’s a huge game for a lot of reasons,” Anderson said. “It’s one of two games left and everyone is jockeying for position and momentum.”
An Arkansas victory would also bolster their NCAA tournament hopes because they have only one conference road win and Missouri has a No. 32 ranking in the RPI.
However, Anderson said he thinks Mizzou Arena will be a tough place to win.
“It’s a good environment to play in,” Anderson said. “There’s tradition there and the fans are engaged.”
It will be senior night for the Tigers and Missouri seniors Laurence Bowers, Keion Bell and Alex Oriakhi, all of whom were recruited by Anderson, will be playing their final games in Mizzou Arena.
“There are a lot of good memories there. I brought those guys in as freshmen,” Anderson said. “That’s an interesting scenario.”
In order to win, Anderson said the Razorbacks will need to do many things they did in their 73-71 win at Bud Walton Arena Feb. 16.
Missouri’s leading scorers, Bowers and sophomore guard Jabari Brown, combine to average 28.2 points per game, but were held to a total of 10 points in their first game against Arkansas this season.
They also held Oriakhi to seven points, four below his season average.
“We did a good job of sending multiple people at (Oriakhi),” Anderson said. “The pressure came from several directions.”
However, Bell had a solid game for the Tigers at Bud Walton, scoring 25 points and collecting eight rebounds.
“Bell was very effective,” Anderson said. “He’s playing at a high level. We need some guys that can neutralize him.”
One area the Razorbacks struggled in their first matchup with Missouri was rebounds.
The Tigers out-rebounded Arkansas 45 to 28 and are No. 2 nationally with 41.3 rebounds per game.
“We have to (rebound) by committee,” Anderson said. “We have to be more physical. They’re one of the better rebounding teams in the country and we’ll have to address that early.”
Anderson also said he expects to continue to get production from junior forward Coty Clarke.
Clarke is averaging 12 points, 6.8 rebounds and two assists per game over the last five games. He also scored 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds against the Tigers earlier in the season.
“The emergence of Coty is big for our team because he’s another guy they have to worry about,” Anderson said. “He’s feeling a lot more comfortable and now you have to guard him.”
The Razorbacks and Tigers tip off at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be televised on ESPN.