Vanderbilt-Arkansas Preview

The Associated Press

Surging Vanderbilt took a break from SEC play over the weekend. Returning to conference action won't be easy.

The No. 25 Commodores will try to snap Arkansas' 13-game home win streak Tuesday night as they seek a rare victory in Fayetteville.

Vanderbilt (16-5, 5-1) has won 10 of 11 overall after an 84-77 home victory over Middle Tennessee State on Saturday. John Jenkins scored 26 points as the Commodores shot 55.6 percent.

The next challenge is at Arkansas, which is 15-1 at home. Vanderbilt has lost eight of 10 previous visits, and fell 89-78 at home to the Razorbacks (15-6, 3-3) last season.

"It's a very difficult place to play," coach Kevin Stallings said. "I think with the style that they play and that Mike (Anderson) coaches, they get extra energy, especially a young team is going to get extra energy from the crowd. That tends to amp up your defense."

Anderson is in his first season with Arkansas, but Vanderbilt has seen his teams' frenetic style the previous two seasons with Missouri. The Commodores beat the Tigers at home 89-83 on Dec. 2, 2009, and fell 85-82 in overtime on the road Dec. 8, 2010.

Vanderbilt committed 41 turnovers in those contests, and that's a concern since Arkansas forces an average of 17.7 to lead the SEC. The Commodores commit the conference's third-most per game at 14.3.

"They're so good at turning people over, and converting those turnovers into points," Stallings said. "For us, we've got to do a good job of taking care of the basketball. That's, I think, the No. 1 priority when you play them."

Jenkins is the SEC's top scorer at 20.0 points per game, with Jeffery Taylor second at 17.3. Slowing them down won't be easy for the Razorbacks, last in the SEC in scoring defense at 66.1 points per game.

"John Jenkins is playing as good as anybody in our league, and Vanderbilt is playing some pretty good basketball, so it's a team that has a lot of weapons," Anderson said.

Arkansas will also be wary of Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli, who scored a season-high 21 points Saturday. Ezeli has only played 11 games due to a suspension and a knee injury, but he's starting to resemble the player who averaged 15.7 points on 69.7 percent shooting over the last six games of 2010-11.

"Our team has been getting a lot better," Stallings said. "I think a lot of that has to do with Festus Ezeli's emergence of getting closer to being the guy we thought he would be as we came into the season."

The Razorbacks fell 72-66 at Alabama on Saturday. They are allowing opponents to shoot 52.5 percent in SEC road games as opposed to 41.6 at home.

Top scorer B.J. Young has averaged 11.8 points over his last four games following a four-game run in which the freshman averaged 18.5.

"He's a warrior," Anderson said. "Sometimes that works great for him, sometimes against him because he wants to try so hard, but he's learning each and every game."

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