By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson wants his team to thrive at home, developing an attitude he believes is pivotal to its identity under his leadership.
Through eight home games, it’s hard to say the Razorbacks have been perfect. But they are, at least, undefeated.
Arkansas (8-3), which has leaned on its performance at home so far this season, will try to run its record to 9-0 in Bud Walton Arena against Charlotte (7-3) tonight. The game is the second part of a doubleheader, which features the Arkansas women’s basketball team (10-1) against Mississippi Valley State (2-6) at 4 p.m.
The Razorbacks have reached the midway point of their seven-game homestand, which will end with the Southeastern Conference opener against Mississippi State on Jan. 7.
The 49ers present the biggest test before conference play with games against Texas Southern and Savannah State on Dec. 30 and Jan. 3 also remaining. So Anderson said it’s important Arkansas continues to build confidence in its own building by beating a Charlotte team that has logged four of its seven wins on the road this season.
"Each and every game they can sense the urgency of what I speak of when you talk about protecting the home turf," Anderson said. "And as you continue your nonconference schedule and get into your conference play that sense of urgency goes up about 10 more notches. ...
"I don’t we have gotten to that point, but they have had some adversity. They have had some moments in games where things weren’t going their way and they battled through that adversity and came out on the positive end."
Arkansas’ most impressive home win to date came in the 91-68 win against Oakland, which was forward Marshawn Powell’s last before suffering a knee injury. Oakland is No. 106 in the Ratings Percentage Index, according to realtimerpi.com.
The Razorbacks have endured a few rocky moments without Powell since, like the 67-59 struggle against Utah Valley and a 62-55 win against Southeastern Louisiana. But the Razorbacks haven’t stumbled to a bad loss in Fayetteville, winning six of their eight home games by 10 points or more.
"We feel like we’ve got to protect your home turf at all cost," Arkansas freshman BJ Young said. "And we really don’t want to let our fans down in this home arena."
Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade said it’s part of an attitude the Razorbacks began to adopt before its opener, when former coach Nolan Richardson paid them a visit.
"Nolan Richardson came into the locker room before our first game and said, treat this like your home," Wade said. "If a burglar tries to break into your house, you’re going to try and protect your family and whatever is in there.
"That’s how you’ve got to treat this place."
Arkansas has needed every win at home, too, struggling outside of the building en route to an 0-3 record.
Arkansas’ two toughest games — against Connecticut and Oklahoma — were played on the road. The Razorbacks also ventured outside Fayetteville one other time, suffering a loss to Houston in North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena.
The Razorbacks know their performance on the road will be important when SEC play begins. But Anderson said winning home games remains critical for his young team right now, beginning with tonight’s game against Charlotte.
"This team can build that confidence and build that team unity and build that team chemistry (at home)," Anderson said. "Hopefully give us that feeling we can do that on the road as well when that time comes again."