Although sports seem so secondary right now at Arkansas, there are still games to be played.
The Razorback program – reeling from the Sunday death of redshirt freshman football player Garrett Uekman – will have its first contest this week when the basketball team takes the floor on Tuesday.
Arkansas (2-1) – minus injured star Marshawn Powell and down to just nine scholarship players - will host senior-laden Utah Valley (3-1) at 7 p.m. inside Bud Walton Arena.
"I have always had at least 10 or 11 guys so there are going to be some subtle adjustments on our part in terms of how we practice and how we play," Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. "But at the same time, I realize that we have got to use all the guys that we have…It's about adjusting. That's coaching. You have got to make adjustments. We still want to play up-tempo style of basketball."
Powell, a 6-7, 220-pound junior forward averaging 20 points and 6 rebound in the team's first two games, suffered what Anderson called a "severe knee injury" during Thursday's practice at North Little Rock's Verizon Arena.
It was confirmed Tuesday morning by Arkansas that Powell is out for the season.
"This is a big blow to Marshawn and our basketball team," Anderson said. "He has been working hard on and off the court this year and was in the best shape of his career. This is definitely a setback, but I told him that sometimes you have to have setbacks in order to have a great comeback. He is in good spirits and looking forward to helping his team in any way that he can."
Playing without their star for the first time, the Razorback got out to an eight-point, first-half lead, but Houston went on a spree that carried over through intermission and then held off Arkansas 87-78 before nearly 12,000 fans Friday night.
"He has been instrumental in what we have been doing," Anderson said. "You don't lose your leading scorer and leading rebounder and it not affect your basketball team, especially the day before a game with a good Houston team that is hungry."
According to Anderson, there was a shock factor on Friday night that should not be there on Tuesday night as Powell's teammates come to grips with his loss.
One guy who should see more time with Powell's loss is freshman DeVonta Abron (6-8, 252), who has had the slowest start out of the gate of any of the four rookies.
"Guys know now they are going to be in the mix and they have got to get ready for it," Anderson said. "A guy like DeVonta. I think DeVonta can help our basketball team. We are just young."
Senior forward Michael Sanchez had 11 points in the loss on Saturday.
"I think that adversity makes everybody stronger," Sanchez said. "You rarely learn from wins, but you really learn from losses. We have to take this for everything that it is worth and soak up as much learning as you can, refocus and work harder."
Junior guard Julyssess Nobles – who led the way for Arkansas with 17 points - pointed out that his team played last year with either Powell out or struggling to come back from the injury.
"He was a big part of our team, but he got injured last year and we played without him so we just have to come back and work harder," Nobles said. "…We'll just have to find a way to work around it."
Arkansas had a pair of freshman guards shine in the second half with B.J. Young pouring in 15 points and Rashad Madden 13 and there was also a spark early from 6-10 freshman forward Hunter Mickelson.
"Now we know he is not going to be there, we can have some other guys continue to improve," Anderson said.
Utah Valley has won two games in a row since losing to Houston 84-71 back on Nov. 14.
The Wolverines have since downed Grambling 64-34 and whipped the University of Missouri-Kansas City 58-54.
"Arkansas is a team that is going to apply a lot of pressure on the ball and one pass away," Utah Valley head coach Dick Hunsaker said. " They're going to extend the court to 94 feet. They really try to scatter your daily practice routines with their style of play. Head coach Mike Anderson is obviously one of the best in the business and he's doing a great job of getting his system installed."
Isiah Williams – a 6-1 senior guard who was both the Great West Conference Player and Newcomer of the Year last season – matched his season average by scoring all 17 of his points after halftime in the win over UMKC.
He is backed by 6-6 senior forward Keith Thompson (10.3), who had 16 in the win and 6-5 senior forward Geddes Robinson – who is averaging a double-double with 11 points and 11.3 rebounds per game this season.
They are joined in the starting line-up by a pair of sophomores in 6-9 center Ben Aird and 6-1 guard Holton Hunsaker, son of head coach Dick Hunsaker.
Arkansas will try to continue its transition to an up-tempo team.
"I just think we are doing a lot of regrouping right now," Sanchez said. "A lot of learning. This is a new style of ball. From the seniors down to the freshmen, everybody is trying to take on this philosophy. It doesn't happen overnight. Rome wasn't built in a day. Every day and every moment, we have got to take it one moment, one day at a time. That is what we are doing. I think we are growing every day as a team. As long as we work hard and persevere, what else can you do?"
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