Let's Get It Started
Now that the two dress rehearsals are over with, Arkansas is ready to lift the curtain on its 2013-2014 basketball season.
The Razorbacks, in their third season under head coach Mike Anderson, will do so Friday night as SIU-Edwardsville visits Bud Walton Arena for the 7 p.m. lid-lifter.
"Third year here, to me, is the blueprint that I've talked about," Anderson said. "In the third year we've made tremendous strides wherever we've been. At UAB, it was in the second year. At Missouri, it was in that third year. And so to say the least I'm excited about this year. I just think the guys we've assembled, they fit what we're doing. Moreso than the previous two years."
Arkansas has whipped pair of Division II exhibition foes Missouri Southern (99-82) and Northeastern State (81-54).
"The sense of urgency goes up, the physicality, the speed," Anderson said. "I am sure our guys are looking forward to having the opportunity to go out and play at home and hopefully get into a rhythm.
"The most important thing is you want to get off to a good start as you start your season," Anderson added. "…Our focus is going to be on this game coming out and building on the second half of the Northeastern game last night. I thought was what we had been looking for in the exhibition season."
The five on the floor to start the second half of Tuesday's exhibition were sophomore shooting guard Anthlon Bell, senior forward Coty Clarke, junior forward Alandise Harris, senior point guard Fred Gulley and sophomore forward Michael Qualls.
Bobby Portis – the Razorbacks' 6-10, 242-pound McDonald's All American big man - also aided in a 28-11 run that turned a 27-24 lead late in the first half to a 55-35 lead early in the second half.
"We had some guys that we put out as a team out there and I thought that group in the second half really came out and exerted themselves defensively, created havoc on defense and really attacked on the offensive end," Anderson said. "Good ball movement, good people movement and guys came off the bench and gave us some good minutes as well."
Arkansas follows up the season opener with a game the following Friday against Loiuisiana and then faces SMU on No. 18 before traveling to Hawaii to play in the Maui Invitational.
The Razorbacks were 19-13 last season and had an SEC mark of 10-8, their first winning record in league action in five seasons.
They have added height and toughness to this season's roster.
"Hopefully we can shore up on some things that took place last year with our basketball team," Anderson said. "Rebounding has always been an issue for us and hopefully we have addressed that with some guys.
"Forwards have really been the strength of our basketball team," Anderson added. " Their versatility, guys that can really go to the glass, that length, guys rebounding at the rim, above the rim, we have some athletic forwards as well, they can step out and put the ball on the floor. So it should cause mismatches for the teams."
Anderson wasn't ready to name a starting five for Friday night, but says that he is looking to narrow down his rotation as the regular season.
"I think there is competition for minutes on this basketball team," Anderson said. "In my mind I am thinking there is going to be a core of eight or nine guys and we have got some very good candidates for those positions. But that's not to say I wouldn't play the other guys as well.
"You have got competition guys that are fighting and scratching and clawing because in the end it is all going to add up together and hopefully it adds up to being a pretty good Razorback basketball team," Anderson added. "I think our fans are going to enjoy the team."
SIU-Edwardsville, 9-19 last season, is picked sixth this season in the Ohio Valley Conference and is coming off a 97-61 exhibition win over Greeneville.
The Cougars were led 6-10, 205-pound junior college transfer Keaton Jackson, who poured in 23 points to lead the way.
Maurice Wiltz, a 6-2 junior guard, added 20 while 6-10, 225-pound Tulane transfer Grant Florentious, 6-3 senior Christian Salecich and 6-4 junior Rozell Nunn all added 10 points, but none were in the starting five.
"The whole attitude is all about team," SIU-Edwardsville head coach Lennox Forrester said. "It's not about them. We went so far as to take the names off the backs of our jerseys,. We're a team and not a bunch of individuals."
Anderson played SIU-Edwardsville while coaching at Missouri.
"They're going to play mid-tempo style," Anderson said. "They may pack the paint just like Northeastern did, but I think they'll get out and run up and down the floor a little bit more. They've got some athletic kids, some kids that can shoot the basketball.
"They played last year, I think maybe they won eight, nine games," Anderson added. "But one of those games they beat Murray State and we know Murray State was I think a Sweet 16 participant two years ago. So they play in a very good league in Ohio Valley.
"We'll get their best shot," Anderson said. "It's early in the year but I'm more worried about us continuing to build on what we've worked on throughout the preseason. Our guys going out and playing the game, playing unselfish on defense, offense. Just causing havoc and playing at a tempo that hopefully the other teams don't want to play."
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