Battling The Braves

Arkansas moves into an easier part of its schedule on Saturday when it hosts Alcorn State (2-6) in a 7 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena.

Having run a gauntlet against some of the nation's best teams that have combined for a 39-8 record, Arkansas now gets a five-game home stretch to prepare for the SEC.

That stretch – which will be against a quintet of teams that have gone just 19-23 so far – starts Saturday night with a home game against Alcorn State.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson - whose team was 1-4 through a stretch that include No. 3 Michigan, N. 4 Syracuse, No. 24 Wisconsin, Arizona State and Oklahoma, thinks his team is better now than it was last month.

"I think when adversity takes place, you've got to come together," Anderson said. "I think our guys did that more and more the games that we played.... Our kids are playing hard, they're competing. Now let's find a way to win."

The Razorbacks (4-4) and Braves (2-6) will tip off at 7 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena.

"I just know that they are a team, as most teams in the SWAC, that they are playing a lot of guarantee games," Anderson said. "They are 2-6 but it's team that's going to come in and battle. They have got nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Arkansas junior guard Mardracus Wade says you can't look at the name of your opponent in this stretch which also includes Robert Morris, Alabama A&M in North Little Rock, Northwestern (LA) State and Delaware State.

"We really don't too much pay attention to the names on the jersey," Wade said. "But at the same time, we have had a tough stretch of teams. A couple of those games we could have won, a couple of them we shot ourselves in the foot.

"But I'm very excited," Wade added. "Alcorn is going to come in here and try and get a win. We're not going to look at their jersey. We're going to play hard and try to play together. They're going to try and upset, so we've got to play hard and do what we do best."

Alcorn State is led by a trio of guards in 6-1 junior Anthony Evans (13.1), 6-5 sophomore shooting guard LeAntwan Luckett (13.0) and 6-4 senior Melvin Nieves (10.3).

All three of those guys are playing over 30 minutes a game with no one else averaging over 5.4 points per game.

The Braves, who have former Anderson and UAB assistant Chris Giles on their staff, also have some height in 6-10 Stephane Raquil (2.1, 3.3).

"They have got a 7-footer on their team," Anderson said. "They have three guys averaging double figures so it will be an athletic team."

Anderson, who will likely get Fayetteville native and Oklahoma State transfer Fred Gulley on the court tonight, is not worried about his team having a letdown in this stretch against non-BCS teams.

"I guess most coaches would but I am not worried about that, the reason why is because we have some guys sitting on that bench," Anderson said. "We have got one guy (Gulley) sitting on that bench. You know he's hungry. And those other guys sitting on that bench, you know they are hungry as well."

Gulley is slated to see his first action.

"Fred has been very active this week," Wade said. He's been excited and talking about playing. Fred's a very good on-the-ball defender, something that we need right now. He's also a good distributor, another thing we need. He can get in the lane under control and get the ball back out. That's really going to help us a lot."

Arkansas is led by sophomore guard B.J. Young (18.1) and forward Marshawn Powell (16.4), who has had 70 points in his last three games and playing some of the best basketball of his career.

The Razorbacks also got a very good second half at Michigan from 6-10 sophomore center Hunter Mickelson.

"Marshawn Powell, you're starting to see his form come around," Anderson said. "Obviously BJ is a talent, and he's going to be a target, so you've seen games where he's made other guys better. That's what's got to continue to happen.

"Thought Hunter Mickelson grew up in that game…he had the chance to play with three fouls, and he probably played even more effectively with three fouls," Anderson added.

This five-game stretch could be very important in helping to develop a bench that has shown promise, but also was almost non-existent in the loss at No. 3 Michigan last Saturday.

"I think it's going to be very important," Anderson said. " "This is a stretch that a lot of people go through in their nonconference schedule early on because they have stretches of games where they can play a lot of people. We didn't have that luxury. So now we get a chance to play those guys and get them ready."

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