April L. Brown, Associated Press
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Mike Anderson was on the bench the last time Arkansas won at Kentucky.
That was 1994, when the first-year Razorbacks coach was an assistant under then coach Nolan Richardson. Arkansas went on to win the national championship that season, but it hasn't won in Rupp Arena since — a losing streak that reached eight games with a 101-70 loss against the Wildcats two years ago.
The youthful Razorbacks (13-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference), with a roster that includes only nine scholarship players and four freshmen, will have chance to end that streak when they face No. 2 Kentucky (17-1, 3-0) on Tuesday night.
They'll do so under the leadership of Anderson, who left Missouri in March for Arkansas — where he was an assistant for 17 seasons under Richardson. The Razorbacks made three Final Fours, including during back-to-back appearances in 1994-95, but they've fallen on hard times since.
Arkansas hasn't reached the NCAA Tournament in three seasons, though the early returns on Anderson's hiring have been positive this season. Anderson promised a return to the frenetic, pressing "40 minutes of Hell" style of basketball made famous by Richardson when he was hired, and he's delivered on that promise so far.
The Razorbacks lead the SEC by forcing an average of 18.4 turnovers per game, and they are 13-0 at home in Bud Walton Arena for the season.
The only negative has been Arkansas' propensity for losing road games — all of them away from Fayetteville, in fact. It's a task that won't be any easier when the Razorbacks face the Wildcats, who have the nation's longest home winning streak at 45 games (44 in Rupp Arena).
"You have got to do a lot of great things in order to (win)," Anderson said. "Certainly going into Rupp Arena, we have got to play one our better games, almost a perfect game, to have a chance to win there."
Kentucky coach John Calipari, who is familiar with Anderson from his previous days at Arkansas and during a coaching stop at Alabama-Birmingham, isn't taking anything for granted.
"They're playing the way Mike coaches," Calipari said. "He's setting the stage ... Mike's teams are going to play different, and they take on his personality."
The Wildcats have won nine in a row since a loss at Indiana on Dec. 10 and are coming off a 65-62 win at Tennessee on Saturday. Anthony Davis led the Wildcats with 18 points, and leading scorer Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Both are freshmen, but the 6-foot-10 Davis leads the SEC in blocked shots per game with 4.6, and his size presents a problem for an Arkansas team that has been outrebounded for the season. The Razorbacks have been outrebounded in all three SEC games so far, including a 48-26 disadvantage in a loss at Mississippi.
Anderson hopes to use Arkansas' quickness to help offset Kentucky's size, and he's also counting on the continued progress of the Razorbacks' own collection of standout freshmen. That includes leading scorer BJ Young, who scored 19 points in a win over LSU on Saturday, as well as 6-foot-10 Hunter Mickelson, who had seven blocks against the Tigers.
Young sounded anything but intimidated about traveling to Rupp Arena following the win over LSU.
"This is a big game," Young said. "... We plan on going there and getting (a win). We're bringing everything we've got, and we're going to be ready for the game."
Anderson wasn't sure how the freshmen would handle playing in an environment like Rupp, but he didn't mind Young's confidence in the least.
"I think that's got to be your attitude," Anderson said. "They're a team. They put their uniform on just like we do.
"... I want our guys with the understanding that anytime you suit it up, you're going out and you're going to play to win."
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