Neither the crowds or the team are at the level that Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson hopes for just yet, but both are making progress getting there.
That was Anderson's assessment after his team dispatched Charlotte 80-67 Tuesday night before a season-high 10,800 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
It was fourth straight win for the Razorbacks (9-3), who are 9-0 at home and will host defending SWAC champ and NIT participant Texas Southern (1-10) Friday night in the fifth game of a their current seven-game home stand.
"You have got to protect the home court and we have got to give the fans a reason (to come out) and hopefully we will get better," Anderson said. We still have got a ways to go, but we are getting there. This is not the same team that you saw earlier in the year."
The Arkansas fans on hand Tuesday responded enthusiastically to a hustling style of play from the Hogs.
"Our fans enjoy basketball where guys are really giving it all – deflections, diving on the floor, hitting the open guy," Anderson said. "If you were a fan of basketball, you could appreciate the effort and what these guys were trying to do. Even if they were making mistakes, they were busting their tails trying to make up for those mistakes.
"I think as a coach and even as a fan that's all you want your kids to do – go out and plat to the best of their abilities and play and play as a team," Anderson said.
The Razorbacks also have a non-conference date on Jan. 3 with Savannah State before opening conference play Saturday, Jan. 7 with visiting Mississippi State (12-2).
"This is the time of the year that you have to start taking it to another level," Anderson said. "You can't be the same team. The freshmen can't be the same freshmen that they were at the first of the year. That's my challenge to those guys as well as Julysess Nobles, Mardracus Wade and Rickey Scott. They have got to step up their performance every night."
Arkansas got up 60 shots in Wednesday night's win, which is about 10 less than Anderson wants to see from his team on a regular basis.
The Razorbacks are averaging 76.4 points per game, which is 47th in the country.
"We want the game to be a possession game where we get a lot of possessions," Anderson said. "I would love to see us shoot 70 times each game. My teams probably average 70 attempts a game. Not that we are just going to come down and jack the ball up, but it is a possession game the way we play."
Texas Southern, coming off an NIT appearance, won the SWAC last season with a 16-2 mark after starting the season 3-11 playing all 14 non-conference games on the road.
Their 1-10 mark has included losses at Baylor and Michigan State while the Houston school, which has played one game this season so far, is coming off a 71-39 loss at St. Louis University on Tuesday.
The Tigers – 344th in the country in scoring at just 50 points a game - are led by their starting backcourt of 5-9 junior Omar Strong (11.7) and 6-4 sophomore Lawrence Johnson-Danner (7.5).
Arkansas was able to get one practice in between the games, which Anderson knows is just fine with his players.
"They love playing as opposed to practicing," Anderson said. "I can tell you that."
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