Arkansas was thrilled with it’s big road win at SMU on Tuesday, but knows the work has really just begun.
The No. 25 Razorbacks (4-0) will continue its effort this weekend with home games against North Texas (4-1) Friday night at 8 on the SEC Network and with Iona at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.
It will be the first time Arkansas who hasn’t trailed after halftime in the last three games and just 2:23 of clock time for the season - has played as ranked team at home since 2007.
“It’s good that they mention you, but it is not where you start, it’s where you finish,” Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. “That’s what I am looking at – where we finish.
“We want to be one of the better teams not only in our conference, but in the country,” Anderson added. “So there’s work to be done.”
The Razorbacks currently lead the SEC in scoring (89.3 points per game), field goal percentage (50.8 percent), 3-point shooting (52.1 percent) and assists while averaging 21.3 a game.
They hope to finish off November strong before a tough early December slate.
Arkansas is set to play at No. 13 Iowa State on Dec. 4, at Clemson on Dec. 6 and host Dayton – two NCAA tournament teams from a season ago sandwiched around one that joined the Razorbacks in NIT.
“Hopefully, this team has the maturity to understand it’s a one-game-at-a-time, one-day-a-time process with them,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a lot of growing to do.”
Arkansas led by 19 in the second half at SMU, saw its lead get as low as five before finishing off the Mustangs 78-72.
“To me it's not so much about the resume but about our team getting better,” Anderson said. “I thought we got better. This was a test. This was the first time we took this test and guess what? We passed it. We had a chance to go play against a team we played last year that we had a lead on them and they made a run at us here at our place.
“So now we go there to their confines, a sellout crowd and great atmosphere, and our guys responded to the challenge,” Anderson added. “Defensively, offensively, they were just into the game. They really zeroed in, dialed in so to speak on that particular game.”
Iona actually beat North Texas 78-58 earlier this season – the only loss the two teams have suffered so far this season.
The Mean Green, fresh off a 67-52 win over Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday will bring in head coach Tony Benford – a former Texas Tech star and assistant Rob Evans, a former Arkansas assistant from 2007-2011 under John Pelphrey.
“Rob is a great man first of all,” Anderson said. “He and (former Arkansas head) Coach (Nolan) Richardson are like brothers. They’re from the Hobbs, New Mexico area and coach is from El Paso. Those guys are really, really close and obviously I’m in that family. So it makes me be close to Rob. He’s a great coach. Great person.”
North Texas is led by 6-6, 205-pound senior guard Jordan Wiillams, who is averaging 13.6 points per game for a team that has no one over 6-8 on its roster.
“They’re an athletic team,” Anderson said. “They’ve played some of the teams we’ve played. … They beat Delaware State. “Tony has some athletic kids. I think he has a lot of new players. But it’s a team that brings in athletes. They go deep in their bench and they’re going to come in with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“Tony played for Coach (Gerald) Myers and Coach Evans, so you’re going to see a team that’s going to defense,” Anderson added. “They’re going to defend. They’re going to play athletic. They want to get up and down the floor. "
The Razorbacks will then play second game in third days when they host Iona, who buried Delaware State 126-76 on Wednesday.
Freshman guard Schhaddrac Casimar scored a school rookie record 40 points the Gaels set records for points and 3-point field goals made with 24.
Every game is a big game for our basketball team so we’ve got to really zero in.," Anderson said. "it’s a quick turnaround. That’s the thing. I’m really thankful we’ve got a deep bench because it’s a quick, quick turnaround.”
Michael Qualls dunks against SMU
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