FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas forward Hunter Mickelson suffered through a disappointing performance in the 88-80 two-overtime win against Auburn.
The 6-foot-10 sophomore scored 2 points on 1 of 5 shooting. He grabbed 2 rebounds and only played 12 minutes, leaving the court after some second-half struggles.
But when Mike Anderson called Mickelson up to his office Thursday, the Arkansas coach had a simple message for the sophomore. Forget it. Move on.
“That was just one of those bad nights,” Anderson said. “That was one of those nights where anything you tried to do, it just didn’t happen. So he’s got to have short-term memory and get back in practice and come with it.”
Arkansas (11-5, 2-1 in Southeastern Conference) needs Mickelson to erase the frustration as it prepares for an even bigger test at Ole Miss (14-2, 3-0) on Saturday.
The Razorbacks’ biggest player will be needed to battle against a talented Ole Miss frontcourt, which includes forwards Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway. The veterans have enjoyed some big performances against the Razorbacks during their careers and will be looking for one more in Oxford, Miss.
So Anderson said Mickelson, who is averaging 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds a game, will be vital to making sure Arkansas has a chance to compete against them.
“He’s a guy with size that we do have, and when Hunter’s right, he’s a tough matchup,” Anderson said. “But he’s got to play with that aggressiveness and he’s got to play with the physicality that’s taking place in games.
“Guys are going to come at him and he’s got to be able to counter that.”
It’s not clear if Mickelson will get his opportunity in the starting lineup or off the bench Saturday. He has started every game this season, but Anderson was impressed with junior college transfer Coty Clarke’s performance in the Auburn win.
Clarke tallied 9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocked shots in 38 minutes off the bench. He gave the Hogs a much-needed spark after Mickelson sat down.
“He deserved those minutes and he’s wanted those minutes because I thought he brought energy,” Anderson said. “I thought (Wednesday) night we saw him probably play one of his better games and it was very needed. We’ll see him out there for longer durations, and possibly in closing the game. It was nice to see him play well.”
But Anderson said the Razorbacks aren’t giving up on Mickelson as they prepare for the road trip to Ole Miss. They’re just hoping he’ll be much more effective against the Rebels’ talented frontcourt after struggling against Auburn.
“We’re going to need him to play,” Anderson said. “He’s got to play.”
Arkansas’ double-overtime win against Auburn was a pretty rare feat.
The Razorbacks have only played nine games that lasted two overtimes or more in school history, according to the basketball media guide. It was the first in Bud Walton Arena and against an SEC foe. It also was the first double overtime game since 1987, when the Razorbacks beat Texas A&M 100-97 in College Station, Texas.
Anderson was an assistant on former coach Nolan Richardson’s staff for the 1987 game, but said he didn’t remember any details of the win. But he knows Arkansas faces a challenge in trying to recover and travel to play at Ole Miss on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a quick turnaround,” Anderson said.
The longest game in school history was a three-overtime loss to Houston during the 1979-80 season. Arkansas is 6-3 in games that went two overtimes or more. They are 3-5 the game after playing two overtimes or more.
Arkansas played its longest game of the season against Auburn. But the Razorbacks’ bench also was at its shortest with three players — freshmen Jacorey Williams, Anthlon Bell and Dee Wagner — watching all 50 minutes from the sideline.
Anderson said it was his decision to shorten the bench for the Auburn game, but said it’s not necessarily an indication all three will see little time the rest of the year.
“You’re playing to win and you’ve got to go with the guys that are playing well, guys that are into the rhythm,” Anderson said. “You have to shorten your bench at times. There will be times where those guys will play, but I thought (Wednesday night) it was critical for us to have a group out there that could give us that blue collar that we talk about. The blue collar work ethic.”
Anderson was impressed with one statistic in particular after the Auburn win.
Arkansas only turned the ball over eight times in 50 minutes.
He was asked who played the biggest hand in the ball security success and said it was a group effort. Only two players — Marshawn Powell (3 turnovers) and BJ Young (4) — turned the ball over against the Tigers on Wednesday.
“When you play up-tempo basketball, you know you’re going to have some turnovers,” Anderson said. “So, I thought that was a big key. … That tells me we did a good job of taking care of the ball and sharing the basketball.”
Arkansas’ Two (Or More) Overtime History
Date - Score - OT - Location - Next Game
Wednesday - Arkansas 88, Auburn 80 - 2 OT - Fayetteville – TBD
2/24/87 - Arkansas 100, Texas A&M 97 - 2 OT - College Station, Texas - Loss at SMU
2/5/86 - TCU 73, Arkansas 71 - 2 OT - Fayetteville - Loss vs. Texas
2/9/80 - Houston 90, Arkansas 84 - 3 OT - Houston - Win vs. Texas A&M
1/28/76 - Arkansas 92, Texas Tech 86 - 2 OT - Fayetteville - Loss at SMU
1/24/76 - Arkansas 93, Texas A&M 91 - 2 OT - Fayetteville - Loss at Baylor
2/8/75 - Arkansas 95, Texas A&M 86 - 2 OT - Fayetteville - Win at TCU
1/18/75 - Kansas State 73, Arkansas 71 - 2 OT - Manhattan, Kan. - Win at Texas Tech
1/9/60 - Arkansas 90, Baylor 83 - 2 OT - Waco, Texas - Loss at Texas