Getting Nutty In North Little Rock

Arkansas will make its only Central Arkansas game appearance this season on Saturday night when the Razorbacks (7-2) host Southeast Missouri (5-5) - coached by Little Rock native Dickey Nutt - in a 7:30 p.m. game at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

It’s not only going to be a homecoming in Central Arkansas this week for many Razorback basketball players, but also for the opposing head coach.

Arkansas (7-2) will face Southeast Missouri (5-5) - whose head coach is Little Rock native Dickey Nutt - Saturday at 7:30 pm. inside Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

“There is a lot of excitement,” Anderson said. “To me it's a fun atmosphere, the fans relish the Razorbacks coming down there and they show up ad show out. It's an opportunity for some of our guys that are from that area. Their family and their friends, a lot of them went to high school in that area there. So for those guys it's like a homecoming so to speak.

“But I want to make sure our guys stay focused on the task at hand,” Anderson added. “It should be a lot of energy in the building.”

Nutt is a former 13-year Arkansas State head basketball coach and the brother of former Arkansas head football coach Houston Nutt and Razorback assistant coach Danny Nutt.

His Cape Girardeau-based program, which was 18-14 a season ago in his fifth season there, took SEC member Missouri to the wire before losing 65-61 in Columbia earlier this season.

“He’s done a good job,” Anderson said. “He’s gotten a lot of transfers, a lot of older guys. One of his best players, which was one of the kids I had… that transferred to them, I think he’s playing overseas. He was a first-team all-conference player last year.

“And he’s got some Memphis kids,” Anderson added. “I know the kids coming from Memphis, they know how to play the game. He’s got a lot of older guys and that helps you as you get your program established. He’s done a good job. really good job. I think they were picked to finish second in their division in that league. That tells you they’re coming here with an experienced team. They won’t back up. they won’t be afraid. We’ve got our work cut out for us in that game.”

Arkansas will be playing just its second game in 13 days after downing Dayton 69-55 on Dec. 13 and then taking this week off for finals.

“It's going to be interesting to see how we come out and how we perform after having finals and juggling our schedule and just seeing if our guys have learned some lessons from the previously nine games,” Anderson said.

Anderson was pleased with his team’s first half defense against Dayton, an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight team of a season ago.

“I am looking forward to getting to the court again and see if we can build off the Dayton experience,” Anderson said. “ I thought defensively, especially the first half, we probably played defense as well as we have all year. We kept Dayton out of sync in what they wanted to do. We had great ball movement offensively.  We shared the basketball and hopefully there will be a continuation of that.”

The Razorbacks have spent practice time this week working to correct issues.

“We had some unforced turnovers that if you are going to be one of the better teams in the country you have got to eliminate that,” Anderson said. “That's what we have been working on this week, making sure our defense continues to be the strength of the basketball team. Our defense is what we hang our hats on, and offensive execution.”

Arkansas jumped out to a 6-0 start - the school’s best in 17 years - and into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in seven years.

But losses at No. 14 Iowa State and at Clemson in a span of four days took the Razorbacks down a notch per Anderson before getting back up off the ground in the home win over Dayton.

“These guys have gotten humbled,” Anderson said. “Humbled real quick. Especially going to Iowa state and then the Clemson game. and so we know we’ve got a lot of room to grow. We know we’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to get better at. We’re not where we’re going to be. I’d like to see us continue to take steps forward. We took a step back. Now, let’s see us continue to take steps forward.”

Southeast Missouri is led by 6-5, 220-pound senior guard Jarekious Bradley (16.1) and 6-9, 245-pound center Nino Johnson (10.9, 6.9, 24 blocks) while freshman Marcus Wallace of Pulaski Academy is the Redhawks’ back-up point guard.

Arkansas will finish up its pre-Christmas games with a contest against visiting Milwaukee (5-6) - formerly the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee - Monday night at 8 p.m. with two other non-conference games slated before the Razorbacks’ SEC-opening game at Georgia on Jan. 6.

“They’re done with finals,” Anderson said. “Now you’ve got their whole attention, you’ve got their complete attention. We’ll do some two-a-days and hopefully have everything in that we want to at this particular time and continue to move forward.

“With four games left it may give me the opportunity to play some other guys and play some different combinations,” Anderson added. “But more importantly, I’ll have the opportunity to see who is going to be the core guys. That’s the one that’s big. having that core group.”

Dickey Nutt

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