For Whom The Bell Tolls

Arkansas sophomore guard Anthlon Bell has hit eight 3-pointers combined in the Red-White and first exhibition game of the season and hopes to keep it going offensively and defensively in another exhibition against Division II Northeastern State Tuesday night at Bud Walton Arena.

While most of the talk about Arkansas basketball team has surrounded three newcomers that bring height and toughness, it's a given that there is one returnee for head coach Mike Anderson who could have as big an impact on the team's improvement this season.

That would be sophomore shooting guard Anthlon Bell, who had 19 points in the Red-White game and then followed that up by starting and dropping in 13 points in Arkansas' 99-82 exhibition win over Missouri Southern on Friday night.

Bell (6-3, 188) knocked down five 3-pointers in the Red-White game and the former Memphis Bartlett standout dropped in three more against the Lions – going 8-of-19 from beyond the arc in those two games.

"I just want to go out there and play with a lot of energy," Bell said. "Like Coach (Anderson) said, the game has slowed down for me after a year of experience."

Arkansas will cap its two-game exhibition slate by hosting Northeastern State Tuesday night at 7 p.m at Bud Walton Arena with the visitors a nationally-ranked Division II school coached by Larry Gipson, a former Nolan Richardson assistant at Tulsa before Richardson came to Arkansas.

Anderson plans to cut his rotation down against the second straight MIAA foe after playing every one on his roster except suspended junior guard Rashad Madden last Friday.

"I will try and make sure not to put everybody in the game," Anderson said. "Just kind of get the guys that are going to be that core group. That is my key right now. I am figuring out some things right now – who are going to be those core guys for our basketball team."

Gipson, 264-188 heading in his 17th year at the school in Talequah, Okla., returns three starters from a 19-9 team last season and has added in seven junior college transfers to a team that enters the season ranked 17th nationally in the in the NABC/Division II preseason poll.

"I think we are a very skilled team and a very capable shooting team," Gipson said, "but I don't know yet if we are going to be a good rebounding team and have to become a good defensive team."

Defense is something Bell has on his mind this season as well and he took two charges in the opening exhibition game.

"That is something I just really worked on," Bell said. "I just told myself to go out there and work more defensively. I have been doing it a lot in practice and just have to take it to the games. I feel like it can be a part of my game.

"I want to be more of a well-rounded player, more than just a shooter," Bell added. "I just want to do whatever the team needs me to do to win."

Anderson – ever the defensive-minded coach – loved seeing the charges from Bell, who was named as one of the top 25 high school shooters in the country in 2012 by

"That to me is more important than a guy shooting the basketball," Anderson said. "He is doing all the other things. I think when you don't worry about how all you want to do is score, I think you do other things to help the team win. Then I think it is easier to knock shots down...I was proud of him on that part."

Bell averaged 4.4 points as a true freshman last season while playing in 29 of his team's 32 games and led Arkansas in 3-pointers last season while making 33-of-104 (32 percent).

He pushed that to 7.7 points per game the last seven games of the season and had a season-high 17 points while hitting 5-of-7 3-pointers against Georgia, added 14 points against Florida and 10 against Texas A&M.

"I think as time goes on you are going to see him be a guy that can knock three or four shots down in a row," Anderson said. "One thing about him – he is not lacking the confidence to shoot it. That is what you want in a guy like him."

Bell, the all-time leading scorer at Bartlett High with over 2,000 points, knocked down five of his first six 3-pointers in the Red-White game, but was only 3-of-10 in the second outing.

As a guy who averaged 25 points a game as a senior, he knows how important it for a shooter to get off to a hot start.

"Once the first one goes through, it feels like I can't miss," Bell said. "Once my confidence gets rolling, I feel like I can't miss."

Bell is likely to see more open shots if the Arkansas front line proves to be as effective as many believe it can.

Senior forward Coty Clarke had 14 points and 6 rebounds against Missouri Southern while true freshman Bobby Portis had 13 points and 12 rebounds, junior forward Alandise Harris 10 points and freshman center Moses Kingsley came off the bench to grab seven rebounds.

"I feel like it was a real effective front line," Bell said. "I feel like we can outrebound a lot of teams just because of the size. All three guys are physical and I think we can outrun people because we have guys that can put the ball on the floor and create plays."

The Riverhawks trio of returning starters are senior All-American guard Bryton Hobbs (6-0, 170) - who averaged 18 points and nearly 5 assists last season - as well as 6-4 senior forward Malcolm Sheppard and 6-4 junior forward Landon DeMasters.

Northeastern State – despite being the only team in its 14-team league ranked nationally - is picked fourth in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association preseason media and coaches polls. That's two spots ahead of Missouri Southern.

The Riverhawks will open their regular season Nov. 9 against Springdale's Ecclesia College and then celebrate the grand opening of its new $16-million Multipurpose Event Center by hosting Harding, which is ranked 25th in the D-II poll.

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