Starting A New Tradition

The Razorbacks have not had much success in their last six trips to North Little Rock with just one win during that time, but Arkansas (6-4) hopes to change that trend with a win over Alabama State (3-6) Saturday night inside Verizon Arena.

There is only one current member of the Arkansas basketball team that has been on the winning side of a college basketball game in North Little Rock.

Problem is that guy is redshirting junior Alandise Harris, who had 13 points and 8 rebounds while playing for Houston during the Cougars' 87-78 win over the Razorbacks last season at Verizon Arena.

Arkansas (6-4) will try to end its three-game losing streak in North Little Rock Saturday night when it hosts Alabama A&M (3-6) in a 7 p.m. game that is its last contest before Christmas.

"I think it is unique, I think it is rare and we are taking our team to our fans," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said of the annual Central Arkansas home game. "I think it kind of neat. I think those people come out and support and give us great support. I am sure the Verizon Center will be rocking."

The Razorbacks, just 1-5 in its last six games in Central Arkansas, last won at Verizon Arena (which was then called Alltel Arena) when it beat North Texas on Jan. 3, 2009.

They have since lost to Baylor (70-47), UAB (70-65) and Houston and also lost to Appalachian State and Texas Tech during the aforementioned stretch.

It's a different year, it's a different team," Anderson said. "I think our guys are steadily improving. The big key is not looking too far down the line. They can't look past this game and think it is Merry Christmas already."

Arkansas sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson, a Jonesboro native who had a career-high 16 points in Thursday's 79-74 win over Robert Morris, is looking forward to playing in Central Arkansas.

"I'm looking forward to it," Mickelson said. "Its just another game to play and it changes the venues up a little. Hopefully more people around Little Rock area will come watch the game and that will be good for us."

He's not worried about previous losses inside the arena.

"We are just going to go down there and play ball," Razorback sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson said. "We are not worried about what has happened in the past because we are a whole new team. Hopefully we'll go down there and get this one."

It would seem like the Bulldogs would be a great opponent to break the streak against although they are coming in off a 59-47 home win over Missouri State.

That ended the Bulldogs' four-game losing streak that include dropping games at Evansville, Mercer and Vanderbilt and a home loss to Tennessee State.

"I told them we are playing an Alabama A&M that that has everything to gain and nothing to lose," Anderson added. "It obviously gives us a chance to go in Central Arkansas and play in front of those fans. We are one of the few teams that has a home court there in (North) Little Rock as well. We have got to make it that – a home court – and hopefully give our fans something to cheer about."

The Bulldogs have three players scoring in double figures in 6-5 senior guard Demanquelle Tabb (11.9) – also the team's leading rebounder at 10.2 per game – 6-4 junior guard Brandon Ellis (10.9) and 5-8 guard Brandon Crutcher (10.4, 5.2 assists per game).

Alabama A&M also starts a 7-1, 215-pound junior center in Justan Banks (6.5, 5.8) and 5-9 senior guard Green Hill (6.1). Tabb had 16 points and 14 rebounds against Missouri State while Crutcher had 12 poijnts, Ellis 19 and Banks grabbed 11 boards.

""We did a great job rebounding and on the defensive end," Alabama A&M head coach Willie Hayes said. "Any time you have guys in double figure rebounds it gives you a great opportunity to win."

Mickelson noted that Anderson pointed out that his team needed to focus in on this last game before Christmas break.

"Coach kind of touched on it in the last bit of our talk," Mickelson said. "He was talking about some of guys checking out before Christmas. But none of us are like that. We'll get Christmas when it comes."

Arkansas got a spark Thursday night from junior guard Fred Gulley, an Oklahoma State transfer who was playing in his second since becoming eligible.

"We are just going to go down there," Gulley said. "It's a quick turnaround, but we'll get our bodies ready and mentally stay focused. We'll worry about Christmas next week."

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