Challenge On Tap

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and Syracuse head coach Jim Boheim talk about Friday night's meeting between the Razorbacks (3-2) and the Orange (4-0) at Bud Walton Arena.

While Friday night's Arkansas-Syracuse basketball game will definitely be a Whiteout, none of the players and coaches involved are expecting a blowout

The No. 5 Orange (4-0) will become the highest ranked foe to enter Bud Walton Arena to play the Razorbacks (3-2) since No. 2 Texas whipped them 96-85 on Jan. 5, 2010 .

Arkansas - which still had a couple of thousand tickets left as of Thursday - is giving away 10,000 white shirts and encouraging all fans to dress in white for the game.

"Syracuse is a team that's probably a top five team in the country and a great coach in Jim Boeheim," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "So when you talk about the ultimate challenge, that's what we are going to face here."

The 7:30 p.m. game is part of the SEC/Big East Challenge- which features eight games on Friday and Saturday nights.

"This is the type of game that you get into the coaching profession for and why players come to Arkansas – to play in these type of games before what should be a fantastic and electric atmosphere," Anderson said last week in Las Vegas. "We welcome the challenge and love that we get a chance to use the energy from our home crowd to turn up the intensity and pressure."

Boeheim, who has 894 wins and one national championships, 35 postseason trips and 34 seasons with 20 wins in his now 37 years at the school, has never coached a game in Fayetteville but knows the history of Barnhill and Bud Walton Arena.

"This game with Arkansas will be a big challenge," Boeheim said Thursday afternoon on ESPN's Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russilo radio show. "Going out there, it is a tough place to play."

Boeheim's players also seem to be relishing the challenge, including senior shooting guard Brandon Triche (15.3) and 6-6 point sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams. (10.3).

"They're very tough playing at home," Triche said. "They're a transition team and they're going to press us the whole game, but I think we're ready for it. We've got guys that can handle pressure.

"These guys — one or two guys, sometimes three — are going to come at you at once," Triche added. "You're going to have to make different types of passes. I think we're going to be able to beat the pressure."

Williams had 13 turnovers in Sunday's win over Colgate and has 37 assists to just 11 turnovers so far.

Arkansas has forced 43 more turnovers than it has committed in the first five games although Carter-Williams says he loves playing in hostile environments.

I do. A lot," Carter-Williams said "I can't wait. It's gonna be fun."

Triche expects it to be similar to playing at Pittsburgh.

"We started out down by 17, but after awhile, we got comfortable," Triche remembers. "I think the quicker we become comfortable playing against their zone and their sixth man, we'll be fine."

Syracuse lost three of its top four scorers from a 34-3 season a year ago – Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters,

But Trice, Carter-Williams, 6-8 semior forward James Southerland (15.3) Rakeem Christmas (6-9, 242) and junior forward C.J. Fair (6-8) have all stepped forward.

"They lost some great players - Jardine, Joseph and Waiters, and they have had guys sitting there and now it's their time," Anderson said. "They are a very, very talented basketball team. Fair is a guy that can put it on the floor and get to the rim. Christmas is a young man we watched in the recruiting circuit from the Philadelphia area. He is a very good basketball player. They are a good team. One thing we have to use to our advantage is our depth.

Syracuse is just 17-of-69 shooting from 3-point range, but the Orange do a lot of other things well and Anderson knows what kind of challenge his team faces.

"Athletically they are going to be one of those teams that are long and athletic," Boehiem said. "They play a zone so you have got to make shots. We have got to put the ball in the hole."

Boeheim told the ESPN hosts that you can't rest on your laurels.

"Every year you are 0-0 so you better be motivated or you are going to end up being 0-4 and everybody is going to be telling you that you are too old or too stupid or something," Boeheim said. "You don't get any carryover in this business. You are only as good as this next game, not this last game, but the next game.

"So you had better be prepared, you better be ready and if you are not and you don't have the same focus as three years ago or 20 years ago, you won't be successful," Boeheim added. "I am fortunate that I have a great staff and we have had great recruiting classes and we have really good players.

"A coach a long time ago – a coach smarter than what I am – said you better get good players and if you do, you can stay in this business for awhile," Boeheim continued. "We are fortunate here that we have had really good players. The new players are learning that they have a lot to learn yet. But they are working hard."

Triche and Southerland (15.3) are the team's two seniors.

"We try to lean on our veteran guys," Boeheim said. "We try to have a couple of veterans that have been there each year and Triche has been there. He is a solid player along with James Southerland, our other senior. We think we have good senior leadership and we have some good young guys."

Arkansas is currently running a gauntlet that sees them playing six quality non-conference foes - including No. 24 Wisconsin (a 77-70 loss) and the next three foes in No. 5 Syracuse. Oklahoma and at No.3 Michigan.

"It's a slate that is very similar to what you probably are going to see in the SEC," Anderson said. " It's going to give us an opportunity to find out more about this team. We want to be one of the better teams in the country so we get a chance firsthand with this particular slate."

Friday:

Tennessee at Georgetown, 5:30 p.m., ESPN

Georgia at South Florida, 6 p.m., ESPNU

Syracuse at Arkansas, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

DePaul at Auburn, 8 p.m., ESPNU

Saturday::

Mississippi State at Providence, 11 a.m, ESPNU

Rutgers at Mississippi, 1 p.m., ESPNU

Alabama at Cincinnati, 2 p.m., ESPN2

Villanova at Vanderbilt, 4 p.m., ESPN2


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