Quick Turnaround Demands Focus from Hogs

With only two days to prepare for a road game against Missouri, Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said his team must refocus and try to gain momentum as the Razorbacks near the halfway point of the SEC season.

Arkansas’ basketball team may be two games ahead of its pace this season as opposed to last, but it can ill-afford a road loss at SEC basement resident Missouri on Saturday afternoon.

The Razorbacks (14-4, 3-2) visit the Tigers (7-11, 1-4) at 1 p.m. in game that will be televised by ESPN2.

It will be Arkansas coach Mike Anderson’s third trip back to Columbia, Mo., since leaving Missouri to become the Razorbacks’ head coach.

Neither game went in favor of Arkansas, with a 30-point loss in 2013 and heart-breaking one-point loss last season.

This season is different, however, as Missouri is lead by first-year head coach Kim Anderson, who took over the program after Frank Haith left for Tulsa.

Kim Anderson led Central Missouri to a Division II national championship last season and coached against Mike Anderson when they were assistants at Baylor and Arkansas, respectively, from 1985-1991.

“Kim is a good man, good family guy, real good friend,” Mike Anderson said. “We don’t go break bread, but he’s a guy that I’ve known in the coaching profession. Very good coach.

“He'll have that program back where it was, I have no doubt about it.”

Despite praise from Mike Anderson, Kim Anderson, who was the Big Eight co-Player of the Year at Missouri in 1977, has struggled in his first season with the Tigers.

Missouri is currently tied with South Carolina and Vanderbilt for last in the SEC and its 7-11 overall record is the worst in the conference.

That has led to an average of just under 9,000 fans coming to the Tigers’ first two home SEC games.

“You know what, we need to win games,” Kim Anderson said. “I’m happy for everyone that comes and grateful. I hope they bring friends. But you know what, we better win some basketball games. We don’t need to be complaining about the crowd.”

Sophomore Johnathan Williams III leads Missouri with 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, while freshman Montaque Gill-Caesar averages 10.5 points.

In order to get their second win – they beat LSU 74-67 in overtime in their season-opener – the Tigers will have to find a way to slow down Arkansas’ duo of Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls.

Qualls is coming off of career-high 30 points against Alabama. He also had eight rebounds, three assists and three steals, becoming the only Arkansas player in the last 19 seasons to reach those totals in a game, according to HogStats.com.

The other half of Arkansas’ duo, Portis, struggled for most of the game, but made the game-winning shot in overtime to finish with 10 points and 13 rebounds. It was his 11th career double-double and fourth straight.

However, unlike the previous game, in which Portis, Qualls and Ky Madden scored 82 percent of Arkansas’ points and only three other players scored in a 96-82 loss to Ole Miss, the Razorbacks got contributions across the board against Alabama.

Madden (17) and Anton Beard (11) also reached double figures, while five other players scored, as well.

“I always say that we have to be a team that’s balanced,” Mike Anderson said. “It was good to see other guys step up.”

With a short turnaround, the bench will be an even larger factor against Missouri.

Qualls (38), Portis (37) and Madden (31) each played more than 30 minutes against Alabama and they have less than 48 hours to prepare for the Tigers.

“I told our guys, ‘Enjoy it until 10 o’clock. It can’t go to midnight tonight,’” Mike Anderson said after the Alabama win. “We have to turn our attention around real quick. Last time we went on the road, we didn’t play particularly well.

“We want to make sure we play with great energy, great focus and play together. (Alabama) was a team win and I want us to continue to build momentum.”

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