Arkansas (14-8) at Vanderbilt (13-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 8, 4 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Gymnasium (14,316) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Arkansas 12-2, Vanderbilt 9-3. Away Record: Arkansas 0-4, Vanderbilt 2-4. Neutral Record: Arkansas 2-2, Vanderbilt 2-1. Conference Record: Arkansas 3-6, Vanderbilt 5-4. Series Record: Arkansas leads, 18-11.
GAME NOTES: The Vanderbilt Commodores will attempt to continue their hot streak on Saturday afternoon, as their three-game homestand comes to a close in an SEC battle with the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Arkansas had lost four of its previous five prior to defeating Alabama at home on Wednesday night, 65-58, to improve to 3-6 in the SEC. Despite the Razorbacks' solid 14-8 overall record, they have experienced a large success differential between their home (12-2) and road (0-4) games.
Vanderbilt has been playing its best basketball of the season in recent weeks, ripping off four straight victories to surge above .500 in league play (5-4) for the first time all year. The Commodores most recently edged out Tennessee on Wednesday, 64-60, to improve to 13-8 overall and 9-3 on their home floor.
The Commodores bested Arkansas in two of three meetings last season, including in the opening round of the SEC Tournament, 75-72. The Razorbacks still hold a 18-11 advantage in the series all time.
The Razorbacks managed to overcome a small halftime deficit earlier in the week by improving their field-goal shooting from 27.3 percent in the first half to 54.2 percent in the second. They also outscored Alabama at the free- throw line, 20-12, and won both the rebounding (42-38) and turnover battles in the seven-point victory. The squad was paced by a career-best performance from Bobby Portis, who shot 14-of-17 from the field and 6-of-6 at the foul line for 35 points, while adding nine rebounds and six blocks for good measure. No one else scored in double figures in the low-scoring affair, but Rashad Madden handed out six assists.
Arkansas is usually much more impressive on the offensive end of the court than it showed against Alabama, as it shoots 44.7 percent from the field for an SEC-best 81.2 ppg, and while its scoring defense (70.0 ppg) ranks in the bottom third of the league, its scoring margin (+11.2 ppg) ranks behind only Kentucky and Florida. It also benefits from owning an outstanding +6.1 turnover margin, a number that ranks in the top-five nationally. Portis' explosion on Wednesday added to an already-stellar campaign, as he posts 13.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.5 bpg and 1.0 spg, while shooting 55 percent from the field. Madden (12.7 ppg) and Michael Qualls (11.2 ppg) are the only other players to net in double figures, but the deep squad has nine others who put up at least 2.6 ppg.
Vanderbilt pieced together a 10-point halftime lead its last time out, and while it saw that advantage disappear when Tennessee climbed back to tie the game at 53 with 6:35 left, it answered with four straight points and held on to win by that same margin. It outshot the Vols from the field, 52.2 percent to 37.7 percent, which helped overcome it sizeable disadvantage on the glass (41-26). Rod Odom was the spark plug in the triumph with a career-high 26 points on 4-of-7 from 3-point range, while Kyle Fuller tallied a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists.
Although the Commodores' scoring margin (+1.6) is sub par by SEC standards, they are able to make up for their lackluster offensive attack (67.0 ppg) by playing strong defense (65.4 ppg). They have made their mark in close games this season, going 7-2 in matchups decided by six points or less. Odom paces the squad in both scoring (14.9 ppg) and rebounding (5.9 rpg) and has drained 64 3-pointers at a 44.1 percent clip, and he has been red-hot of late, putting up 20.0 ppg in the last three. Fuller nets 11.3 ppg and dishes out 4.4 apg, while Damian Jones brings 11.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg and more than a block per contest to the table.
With Vanderbilt surging of late and holding the homecourt advantage over a Razorbacks squad who has yet to win on the road, expect the Commodores' season-long winning streak to continue.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vanderbilt 69, Arkansas 65
02/08 10:26:49 ET