Road wins in SEC rare this season

Road wins in SEC rare this season

January 31st, 2012 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia head coach Mark Fox

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Winning on the road for Southeastern Conference basketball teams always has been difficult, but this season it's downright bleak.

Arkansas is 15-0 in the comfort of Bud Walton Arena but 15-6 overall, and the Razorbacks are assured of entering February without a road triumph. Tennessee has yet to defeat a Division I team away from Thompson-Boling Arena -- the Vols did whip the Division II Chaminade Silverswords in Hawaii back in November -- and will enter February without such a victory unless it can prevail tonight at No. 1 Kentucky.

Auburn, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina haven't won away from home in 2012, leaving half of the SEC yet to win a league road game.

"One thing that's obviously different in our sport compared to football is the noise stays indoors," Georgia coach Mark Fox said Monday. "The crowd can have such an effect on the energy of the home team. In basketball, you also see that there is so much more travel and so many more things to balance in our sport compared to football."

Noisy crowds and stressful travel aren't new to SEC programs, however, and the difference in home and road performances wasn't as drastic last season. In fact, every SEC team won at least one league road game last January.

"You've got a lot of programs in transition in terms of remaking their roster with younger players," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "You look at why Vanderbilt has lost only once on the road so far, and it's because they not only have fantastic talent but experienced talent. Five of the top six in their rotation are seniors, so experienced teams with experienced players and talent usually win.

"It's hard to win on the road when you've got young players."

Kentucky and Vanderbilt are each 4-1 in true road games this season, the only SEC teams with winning road records, and neither has lost a league game away from home. UK's Wildcats are the only undefeated team in league play, and the Commodores' only SEC loss was in overtime against visiting Mississippi State.

Vanderbilt visits Arkansas at Bud Walton tonight on ESPN.

"It's a very difficult place to play, and with the style they play, they're going to get extra energy from the crowd," Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said. "That tends to amp up your defense, and they are so good at turning people over and converting those turnovers into points. For us, we've got to do a good job of taking care of the basketball. That is our No. 1 priority in that kind of environment.

"It's an easier-said-than-done challenge, but we do have a veteran group. We just hope to do what nobody else has been able to do so far."

Sidney leaving early?

Reports surfaced this past weekend that Mississippi State 6-foot-10, 280-pound junior forward Renardo Sidney was leaving after this season. Sidney, who was suspended for almost half of last season, is averaging 9.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 22 minutes a game for the Bulldogs.

"I don't know where all these reports come from, but there has been no discussion or any of that," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "We haven't talked one bit about his future plans at all."

Odds and ends

Vanderbilt senior forward Jeffery Taylor was named Monday as SEC player of the week after averaging 20 points and 7.5 rebounds in recent wins over Tennessee and Middle Tennessee. ... Kentucky will visit South Carolina on Saturday as the top-ranked team for the first time since 2010, when the Wildcats were stunned by the Gamecocks, 68-62, behind 30 points by guard Devan Downey.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.