Time To Fear The Beard

After his performance at Tennessee on Tuesday, Arkansas freshman guard Anton Beard should be in line for more significant playing time as the No.19 Razorbacks (13-3, 2-1) host Ole Miss (10-6, 1-2) for a late night tip Saturday night at 8:30 inside Bud Walton Arena

It seems it’s getting about time to Fear The Beard.

As in Arkansas freshman point guard Anton Beard, coming off a career-high 12 points and 3 assists in Tuesday night’s 74-69 loss at Tennessee.

Beard (6-0, 195) has not started any of his 14 college games so far – he missed one with injury – but that could be on the horizon.

"He [Beard] is gravitating that way, but it's not about starting," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said Thursday night in response to a question on his Miked Up radio show.

While Beard missed a trio of free throws at Tennessee that would have tied it with 5 seconds left, he was also one of the main reasons the Razorbacks rallied from 16 down to have a chance in the final seconds.

“I told him, 'Hey, man, you played your butt off. You put us in that position. I love your toughness. I love your heart. And if we can get everybody playing with the same kind of heart he plays with, you are talking about a dynamite team because we would be a dynamite team,” Anderson said.

Beard and the No. 19 Razorbacks (13-3, 2-1) will host Ole Miss (10-6, 1-2) Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena.

It’s a game will be televised by ESPNU, but announcers John Brickley and Corey Alexander will actually doing the play-by-play from the ESPN studio in Bristol, Conn.

It also is a game between two teams coming off losses as Ole Miss dropped a 75-71 decision to Tennessee at home on Wednesday.

“They’re steaming form that loss and we’re steaming from a loss as well,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be a whale of a game.”

Anderson doesn’t expect any hangover from Beard’s free throws.

“Anton is going to be fine,” Anderson said. “I think you have got to be in those situations in order to learn from it and he put us in position to have an opportunity to tie that game.

“So next time I am sure he will be a guy that will go up there and knock them down,” Anderson added. “Hopefully it won't be a situation where we have to make three free throws but given that opportunity he put us in position to have a chance and that's all you can ask for. “

Beard is averaging just 4.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in an average of 13.4 minutes per contest, shooting just 37.5 percent from the field (24-of-64) and 52.9 percent (9-of-17) from the line.

But he is shooting 40 percent from 3-point range (9-of-17) after going 3-of-4 from there against Tennessee and has become a favorite with his fans and his teammates because of his toughness and intensity.

"He's a tough kid," Qualls said. "Me, I'll take that effort any night. That's what we need from him.

“…"He came in and gave the best performance that you can give," Qualls added. "If he's playing like that, oh yeah, we're going to be all right. We're going to go through the roof."

Beard – who won three state titles as a prepster - was not available for comment on Thursday, but did say earlier in the week that he has made a transition since his senior season at North Little Rock.

He averaged 19.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 2.2 assists for a Charging Wildcats team that won the Class7A state tournament, which he was named the MVP afterwards.

“Not really change my mindset, but just adjust to it,” Beard said. “Adjust to being able to let other people score since I'm in college. In college, everyone can score, you know what I'm saying? So now it's just about finding my edge … and that was really defense. Picking them up full court and all that. That's really what it was. Just adjusting to it.”

Beard and sophomore Manuale Watkins have both been on the floor late in the Razorbacks’ last two road games – a win at Georgia and the loss at Tennessee.

The pair played a combined 45 minutes without a turnover at Tennessee and have only three combine in their last 100 minutes on the court.

“Again, those guys, you look at Manuale, you look at Anton, those guys didn’t have any problems taking care of the basketball because I think they value that,” Anderson said. “Manuale is playing at a high level. When he comes in the game there’s a distinct difference in the game.

“I call those guys my blue collar guys and those guys have got to continue to work because I think they will play the type of defense we want to play,” Anderson added.

Arkansas has had several tough, hard-nosed point guards over the past 30 years, but not many lately.

“I think Anton gives you a guy that’s got a big heart,” Anderson said. “I think Manuale Watkins fits that bill when you talk about guys that play with toughness. They don’t back down from anybody. We’ve got to have some more guys that play with that attitude, that mindset.

“Because I think when you play in tough venues, or just tough games, those guys, to me, they have pride on defense about stopping people,” Anderson added. “Their bodies mean nothing to them. Loose balls, they get after that. They just cause havoc. "And I think you win with good guards. You really win big with good guards.”

Arkansas has home games with Ole Miss and Alabama before going back out on the road to face Missouri and having a rematch with Tennessee at home.

It will give the Razorbacks to chance to start another winning streak after previously having ones of six and seven games this season.

The players are anxious to do so after some fans had a meltdown this week on radio talk shots and message boards.

"We appreciate everybody, whoever is an Arkansas fan who has anything to say," Qualls said. "Everybody's entitled to their own opinions.

"People love the Razorbacks. That's nice. We want to see that. But you know, at the end of the day ... we go out there and we play."

Manuale Watkins and Anton Beard pressure Vanderbilt's Riley LaChance.

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