March 04, 2015

Arkansas was enjoying its best run in conference play in 21 years before hitting a speed bump against the nation's top team.

Though the Razorbacks overwhelmed South Carolina a month ago, their rematch Thursday night might not be as easy.

No. 18 Arkansas tries to snap a six-game road skid in the series Thursday night.

The Razorbacks (23-6, 12-4 SEC) had won seven straight in SEC play for the first time since 1994 - when they won the NCAA tournament - and four of five on the road prior to Saturday's 84-67 loss at No. 1 Kentucky. They shot 37.5 percent and were held more than 12 points below their season average.

"We have a bad taste in our mouth," coach Mike Anderson said. "You get to this time of year, you want to be playing some of your better basketball. We felt that we were trending in that direction, just kind of took a half-step back against Kentucky."

Arkansas needs to get back to creating chaos after forcing only nine turnovers compared to its league-leading average of 16.4. The Razorbacks are 4-6 when forcing fewer than 15.

They had also hit nine or more 3-pointers in four of five before going 5 for 18 against the Wildcats. Anthlon Bell, who had been 14 for 30 in his previous six, missed all four attempts. He's shooting 24.4 percent from deep on the road compared to 38.6 at home.

Arkansas forced 20 turnovers in a 75-55 home win over the Gamecocks on Feb. 3, outscoring them 21-1 in points off turnovers. Bobby Portis, second in the league with 17.5 points per game, scored 18 with 13 rebounds. Michael Qualls was the only other Razorback in double figures with 11 points off the bench, though he was 3 for 14.

"I'm sure they're probably going to double up on (Portis)," Anderson said. "So we have to have other guys make plays for us."

These teams have split the last 12 meetings overall, but Arkansas hasn't won at South Carolina since a 69-67 victory on Feb. 20, 2001.

The Gamecocks (14-14, 5-11) have taken better care of the ball, averaging 9.9 turnovers over their last seven games compared to 14.0 previously. They also shot 32.6 percent during a 3-8 stretch, including 27.9 against the Razorbacks, before hitting 46.3 percent in a 81-68 win over Mississippi State on Saturday.

"What do you tell guys to get them to make shots? Tell them you believe in them," coach Frank Martin said.

South Carolina looked less like the SEC's worst shooting team (40.1 percent) and more like the club that shot 48.3 percent during a seven-game non-conference winning streak. That run included double-digit wins over Oklahoma State and Clemson and a 64-60 upset of then-No. 9 Iowa State on Jan. 3 in Brooklyn.

"When we play like we did today - like we did early in the season - we can play with the best of them," said Tyrone Johnson, who scored 28 on 7-of-10 shooting after being held to seven points or fewer in six of seven.

Leading scorer Duane Notice has averaged 14.8 points over his last four games, up from 10.8 previously. He was limited to five points on 2-of-10 shooting with four turnovers in the first meeting.

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