After a pair of exhibition victories that left him wanting a little more from his team, Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and his team will get things going for real on Sunday.
The Razorbacks will host Alabama State at 4 p.m in the season opener for Arkansas.
“The games just take on a different mindset when you start playing (real) games,” Anderson said. “Especially the games for keeps.”
Arkansas junior Michael Qualls is anxious to start the season the right way.
“We want to start off right,” Qualls said. “We need to play tenacious, tough and everything that Coach A says he wants his basketball team to be. That's what we want to be and what we want to bring starting Sunday.
“We don't want to wait to come together at the end of conference, nothing like that,” Qualls added. “We want to start off right and control what we can control and that's the next game.”
Alabama State opened its season Friday night by hammering crosstown rival Auburn Montgomery 105-64.
The Hornets return all five starters from a 19-13 campaign last season and have added in some transfers such as former Mississippi State player Wendell Lewis (6-10, 260), who averaged 8.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in his last season with the Bulldogs.
Alabama State is picked to win the SWAC after finishing second last season.
“They are picked to win their league,” Anderson said. “I know (head coach) Lewis Jackson, who played there and was a great player there at Alabama State, is going to have some very good guards. We are going to see some quick guards and some guys with size that can play. They are picked to win their league and he does a good job.”
“They play a mid-tempo and can get up tempo,” Anderson added. “He has a lot of returning guys. We are going to play a team that is going to come leave it on the line. We have got be prepared.”
Jackson is excited about what his team has a chance to be this season.
"We have all our guys back from last year and so we are excited about that," Jackson said. “We've added some new players as well. On our perimeter we added a local player Steve Rogers who played at Brew Tech and was a great scorer. We added Chidizie Omile who is also a great scorer and is a big guard, about 6'-5", who could play the two or three."
"In the middle we added two big guys,” Jackson added. “We have Robert Ojeah, a 6'-9", 250 guy, that sat out last season and is now back, healthy and ready to go. We have a transfer from Mississippi State in Wendell Lewis that graduated from there and has another year to play. So he's going to play his final year with us at Alabama State."
"We are going to be different on the inside with Wendell and Big Rob," Jackson continued. "I have always been a coach that wants to play inside out.”
Demarcus Jackson led the way in Alabama State's win Friday night with 23 points while Brandon Graham added 15, Bobby Brown 14, Steve Rogers, Jr., 13 and Luther Strong 12 as the Hornets hit 10-of-23 3-pointers and shot 52.1 percent from the field overall.
Arkansas played all 14 of his scholarship and walk on player during both of its exhibition wins – a 110-74 rout of Central Oklahoma and a 89-66 whipping of Pittsburg State on Thursday night.
“We were playing a lot of combinations and what those two games do is give me an opportunity to get some data, get some feedback and see which direction we want to go,” Anderson said.
Anderson was very impressed with what he has seen from junior forward Jacorey Williams in the two exhibition games as he had 29 points on 13-of-18 shooting.
“I think the game is starting to slow down for him because he is making much better decisions,” Anderson said. “...He is doing all the little things. That is what I am liking. He is touching balls, he is on the front of the press, is rebounding the basketball. He is out on a lot of the fast breaks. He is going to be the recipient of a lot of alley oops or lay ups. The good thing about it is that he is finishing.
Williams has also been a spark plug on defense.
“You look at a guy like Jacorey,” Anderson said. “He continues to bring the energy. We have got to be a team that is going to hang our hats on our defense.
“If we are going to be a team that is going to be one of the best teams in the country, we have got to have five guys rebounding the basketball that are out there on the floor,” Anderson added. “We have got to have five guys that are defending as a team. It can't be three or four because what teams will do is exploit you and find the weak link.”
Top photo courtesy of University of Arkansas
Bottom photo - Jason Ivester
Rashad Madden looks for a teammate in Arkansas' exhibition win over Central Oklahoma.
Arkansas Ready To Get Real
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