Qualls Improves By Leaps And Bounds

Arkansas sophomore small forward Michael Qualls (6-6, 210) is having a much-improved sophomore season and he and the Razorbacks (10-2) will be trying to win a seventh straight game when they host UTSA (4-8) Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena.

When Arkansas sophomore small forward Michael Qualls has not had his name called out during starting line-ups this season, some Razorback have been upset with head coach Mike Anderson.

But not the young man himself – who has started 7 of his team's 12 games so far and appears to be the most improved player on the team.

Qualls (6-6, 210) is leading the squad in scoring at 13.9 points per game, second in rebounding at 4.9 while shooting 56 percent from the field, 45 percent from 3-point line and 71 percent from the free throw line.

"Coach likes to be unpredictable," Qualls said. "So we don't find out who is starting until about 15 minutes before tip-off time. I am not focused on it. I am going to come in and be a positive influence to the team.

  "I feel like I can come off the bench so I want to give somebody else their shot and see what they have to bring or give," Qualls added. "They can show Coach they can do positive things as well."

The Razorbacks (10-2) host the University of Texas-San Antonio (4-8) Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena.

"We're ready to play," Qualls said. "...It kind of gets a little edgy in practice, but I like that. That shows me everybody's ready to play. We're all ready to get after somebody else."

That's after a full-game scrimmage on Wednesday that was held since the Razorbacks have not played since last Saturday and are in a stretch of games only on three straight Saturdays.

Kikko Haydar and Dee Wagner not only played in that scrimmage, but coached.

"It was fun," Qualls said. " I think that shows Coach has a lot of trust in us, to set aside a whole day of practice and not really say anything and let the players do the talking in practice. That shows that he knows what we're trying to get to."

  The Razorbacks – who won all 18 of their games at Bud Walton Arena in 2013 – will be trying to improve their home winning streak to 23 before starting SEC play next Wednesday at Texas A&M.

UTSA is coached by former Oklahoma State guard Brooks Thompson, who brings in a small squad that has won 3 of its last 5 games.

"It's a new year, 2014," Anderson said. "We get started on Saturday and our guys are really charged up to get started, having not played since Saturday after coming back from the Christmas break.

"I'm anxious to see us in a game setting as the last game before conference play starts," Anderson added. " So we want to make sure that we continue to play good basketball. I think we're playing at a level with a lot of confidence right now. As we all know, once you get to this time of year, the intensity goes up 10 to 20 notches."

Qualls started five games while playing in all 31 last season as a true freshman while averaging 4.6 points and 3.9 rebounds and 15.6 minutes of playing time.

He certainly has expanded his production this season while playing a team-high 25.2 minutes per game.

"I have been just stepping up and taking over situations," Qualls said. "A lot of times last year I was laid back in situations. It is why I didn't shoot the ball as much. I was just out there trying to go with the flow of the game. Now I try to impose my will on what we are trying to do, what we are trying to accomplish."

It has certainly helped that there is better ball movement this season.

 "We have got way more basketball players this year than we had last year," Qualls said. "That is something big for us... I think all five players out there on the court are not just trying to go get it (their own points). In the past we had people who would just try to get it so it kind of looked bad.

  "Everybody's out for the same goal (this season), so that's why it looks so fluid out there," Qualls said. "It's ball movement, because everybody wants everybody else to do good. A lot of teams don't have that. I feel like because we have that unselfishness, that's what's going to really separate us from other teams."

  Qualls believes his team is far more physically and mentality tougher this and will fare better on the road this season because of that.

  "I really do feel that way," Qualls said. "A lot of times last year people would put their head down and give in, but now everybody is focused and tuned into the game."

Michael Qualls

Michael Qualls

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