FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson didn’t know if his team was still thinking about its 80-69 win against No. 2 Florida before practice Thursday.
But Anderson vowed that visions of the program’s biggest win wouldn’t linger as the Razorbacks started preparation for their next game.
“That will be my job,” Anderson said. “They’ve gotten some pats on the back, but that’s one game. We’ll try and bring them back down to earth (Thursday).”
Arkansas (14-8, 5-4 in Southeastern Conference) remained elated about what it accomplished in a breakthrough performance in Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday night. The Razorbacks dominated Florida throughout, handing the Gators their first conference loss after rolling through their first eight games.
But Arkansas also realizes the victory won’t mean much if they can’t capitalize on it over the next week. The Razorbacks will play consecutive road games at Vanderbilt (Saturday) and Auburn (next Wednesday). So they need to make it count.
Forward Michael Qualls said it starts by winning at Vanderbilt (8-13, 2-7).
“We’ve got to prove something to ourselves. That we can get it done,” said Qualls, who is averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds the past three games.
Arkansas improved to 12-1 in Bud Walton Arena with the Florida win, but is still searching for its first road success. The Razorbacks are 0-7 outside the state this season and suffered a 59-56 loss at Alabama in its last road game on Jan. 31.
But Anderson believes his team has been building momentum, starting with defense, over the past couple of weeks. He said it’s time for the improvement to show when his team leaves Fayetteville to play its next two games.
Guard BJ Young said that is what is keeping the Razorbacks grounded despite the program’s first win against a team ranked No. 2 or higher since 1999.
“I wouldn’t even want a standing ovation in class until we get a road win,” Young said when asked about the reaction to beating Florida on campus the past two days. “We expect to win at home, and we got a big win over Florida. Now we need to move onto the next game and get a win on the road.”
Anderson shook up his starting lineup after the Alabama loss on Jan. 31, putting together a starting five of Qualls, Marshawn Powell, Coty Clarke, Rickey Scott and Mardracus Wade for the next home game against Tennessee.
The unit has enjoyed plenty of success, helping the Razorbacks start strong in a pair of home wins. Anderson believes he has seven or eight starters on his roster, but said there’s something he has noticed about his first five the past two games.
“What I see, especially on the defensive side, I think they’re trusting one another,” Anderson said. “When things break down defensively they’re in constant communication, fixing things. So I think that’s been the biggest difference I’ve seen.”
Most of Arkansas’ roster will get its first dose of Memorial Gym’s quirks on Saturday afternoon. But one of the newcomers — forward Coty Clarke — said it won’t be his first time on the floor in Vanderbilt’s home gym.
“Actually I practiced there once,” Clarke said. “I didn’t play a game there. It’s kind of a weird feel but it’s cool. I figure it doesn’t matter as long as it has got two goals.”
Arkansas won during its last trip to Vanderbilt, beating the Commodores 89-78 during the 2009-10 season. The Razorbacks have actually won on three of their past five trips to Vanderbilt and hope the success continues in the strange environment.
“We’re not too worried about where the bench is at,” Young said about Memorial Gym. “As long as they have two hoops and a ball we should be OK.”