LAS VEGAS – Fresh off two losses in Las Vegas where it gave up second-half leads, Arkansas is excited to be going home.
But their task won't get much easier as the Razorbacks (3-2) will next host No. 4 Syracuse (4-0) Friday night in the Big East-SEC Challenge.
The 7:30 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena will be televised nationally by ESPN.
"The games get bigger, the teams get better," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "We are talking about one of the top five teams in the country in Syracuse. We have got some time to get back, get rested up and get prepared for one of the bigger games to come to that arena in awhile.
"Hopefully our guys can continue to stay on task in terms of what we are working on to get better," Anderson added. "Defensively we have got to be on a team that is all on the same page. I thought we saw that (in a 77-70 Saturday night loss to Wisconsin).
"Our energy level went up, our execution from a defensive standpoint, but those last waning moments, we have got to be able to make plays off of teams such as Wisconsin or any team," Anderson continued.
Razorback junior guard Mardracus Wade is hopeful he'll see a packed house on Friday night.
"It is going to be a great, great atmosphere," Wade said. "I am looking forward to Bud Walton Arena being sold out. There is going to be a lot of energy in there. Those guys are going to come in and try to get a win and we have to try and match their intensity."
Arkansas junior college transfer Coty Clarke is hopeful he will get a chance to see the first large crowd of his career.
"I am definitely looking forward to it," Clarke said. "It's Bud Walton Arena, it's home in Fayetteville and the energy is going to be there from the crowd. We are going to be ready to play."
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim talked about the test ahead of his team.
"Arkansas is very difficult at home," Boeheim said. "They've lost two road games, but they are different at home. Any pressing team is always more difficult to play on their home court. That'll be a real test for us Friday."
The Orange will be coming in off an 87-61 win over Colgate on Sunday in which 6-6 sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams dished out 13 assists.
"Michael's doing a great job of finding open guys," Boeheim said after the game. "He's really playing as well as any point guard we have had in a long time in terms of getting the ball to people and making plays for other people. Even when there is not a play there, he is making plays for them."
He's looking forward to the Orange's first road test when the two teams hook up in Fayettevllle.
"It's going to be a great test," Carter-Williams said. "It's going to be a great experience for me and my teammates. I think we are ready for it. We are excited for it."
Anderson is hopeful his team – which lost 83-58 to Arizona State in its opening game in Las Vegas – will see some of his veterans such as Marshawn Powell play better than they did this past weekend.
"Hopefully those guys that have been through it, they will be some guys that will help navigate the young guys through playing big-time basketball games and winning big-time basketball games," Anderson said.
Wade knows that his team is about to face a second straight team that prides itself on its defense.
"They have that special defense – which is a zone 2-3 or 3-2 – so we just have to get ready for that," Wade said.
Arkansas sophomore guard B.J. Young, who had 47 points in the two games, is excited.
"I am looking very forward to it," Young said. "It is going to be a good game against a very good team. It is going to be a great challenge for our ball club.
"We are going to go watch the film this week and see the things we did good, the things we did bad and try to build off of this," Young added. "I think we are going to be ready for Syracuse."
Arkansas had a 5-point lead on Arizona State late in the second half on Friday night and an 11-point advantage at intermission against Wisconsin.
"Our pressure was working good, we were cutting to the basket and we were getting good shots," Wade said. "Guys were getting easy buckets, we were getting easy transition points. But then it just went away from us in the second half both nights."
Wade said the summary was like school.
"As Coach says, these games are like tests and we didn't pass today," Wade said. "It is a bad thing, but also a good thing because we are learning and we will be able to correct what we are doing wrong."
Young is confident that his team will get better as the season goes along.
"We are a young team and we are learning on the road and learning on the fly," Young said. "We need tough games like this to bump our head early and learn how to handle the road and handle playing away from Bud Walton Arena.
"We know we can win at Bud Walton, but we want to be one of those teams that are road warriors and can win anywhere," Young added.
Clarke said he is happy Arkansas got to see quality foes early.
"I think we played two very good opponents out here and I think it helped us," Clarke said. "I am glad it is early in the year and not late. It shows us what we need to do to get better because we are going to be playing some teams like that down the line.
"It was a lesson learned these last two days," Clarke said. "We are going to come in and learn and be prepared from here on out."
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