Arkansas Must Both Protect And Guard House

Arkansas head coach MIke Anderson and Texas A&M's Billy Kennedy talk about Tuesday night's SEC Showdown between the Razorbacks (22-5, 11-3) - No. 16 in the USA Today poll and No. 18 in AP - and the visiting Aggies (19-7, 10-4), which will be televised by ESPN at 8 p.m. from Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas will try to protect its own house this week by trying to slow down Texas A&M’s one.

Houston transfer Danuel House (6-7, 195) has been the biggest key to the Aggies’ surge in SEC play – including knocking down 7 3-pointers and scoring 25 points in Texas A&M’s 62-52 win at South Carolina on Saturday.

“He had seven 3s against South Carolina, but you have got to pay attention to their inside presence,” Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. “But you have got to make sure you stay in contact with him…There are more weapons than just House, but we have got to make him work for the points that he does get.”

Arkansas (22-5, 11-3) - No. 16 in the USA Today poll and No. 18 in AP - will host Texas A&M (19-7, 10-4) Tuesday night at 8 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena in a game that will be televised by ESPN.

Former Razorback head coach Nolan Richardson will be honored with his banner being raised to the rafters at halftime.

The Aggies – who started league play 0-2 – have won 10 of their last 12 games since a 70-64 double-overtime loss to visiting Kentucky back on Jan. 10.

“Kennedy said. “Anytime you can win at Arkansas, it is a special thing and a special win because of the tradition and how hard it is to play there and how they are playing now and as good as their team is.

“Mike’s fourth year is similar to my fourth year – we both have veteran teams, guys who have been in our system, guys we have recruited,” Kennedy added.

“Everybody recognizes how good Arkansas is there so anytime you win there it is a special win, especially this time of year and what is at stake,” Kennedy continued.

It’s clear that Anderson has a lot of respect for Aggies.

“The A&M game is a big game,” Anderson said. “It’s a game between two teams that are playing well. I am really impressed with A&M, their size and how they are playing.

“They have some players in Jones and House that have really put them in contention to be one of the better teams in our league with the way they are playing,” Anderson added. “They have size and good athletic ability.

“So it will be a big-time challenge for our basketball team,” Anderson continued. “We feel like we are playing some good basketball as well.”

House (14.8, 3.8) and 6-7, 223-pound SMU transfer Jalen Jones (13.5, 6.2) join 6-5 junior point guard Alex Caruso (9.3, 4.7 assists per game) head up the Aggies.

Kourtney Robertson (8.7, 6.0) – a 6-9, 250-pound senior center and 6-5 senior guard Jordan Green (5.5) round out the starting line-up.

“I think we know where we are trying to go with the ball,” Kennedy said. “You have teams and you have a best player offensively. We know we want to get Danuel House and Jalen Jones touches. We kind of play off those guys and Alex Caruso has an identity. He is a great passer and a good finisher, knows what we want.

“I think that is the biggest thing,” Kennedy added. “We have been able to have a plan and execute the plan and I think that is one of the things that has been nice about this team and one of the reasons why we have had success.”

Anderson and Kennedy have coached against each other on several occasions.

“What you have got is an infusion of some experienced players and these players were leading scorers at their respective schools – Jalen Jones at SMU and Danuel House at the University of Houston,” Anderson said.

“They bring that experience to go along with Alex Caruso – a guy that has been starting since he was a freshman and of course Robertson and Green, who are kind of holdovers that have been there…I just think they have got very good basketball players.”

Kennedy knows that Arkansas will try to get A&M out of its normal pace.

“I think Arkansas – you are going to get who they are no matter where you are playing them,” Kennedy said. “They are going to press and they have a system that they are going to play and they are going to try and speed you up and make you play like they want you to play.

“That is the biggest and hardest thing to do when you are playing at Arkansas,” Kennedy added. “We are hoping that we can control some tempo and get lay ups when we get the opportunity to and make then have to guard us in the half court and not let it be a track meet.

“Because if it is a track meet, it is definitely in their favor,” Kennedy continued.

Arkansas will travel to face No. 1 and unbeaten Kentucky (27-0, 14-0) on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Lexington.

Anderson does not think his team is focusing on that game and will not until Wednesday.

“So far we have done a good job of just staying in the moment,” Anderson said. “Taking it one day and a time and having an emphasis to just get better.

“…As we get for A&M, it’s a very good basketball team,” Anderson added. “The games in our league – they (Aggies) played against Kentucky earlier in the year and it was a double-overtime game I think so that gets your attention right away.

“We can’t just go on down the road because we have a big game against A&M, who is coming into our place,” Anderson continued.

Anderson was asked by a Kentucky reporter if Arkansas winning at Lexington last season – the third win in four games against arguably the nation’s best program – will have the Razorbacks confident on Saturday.

“Our guys right now – no matter where they play – they feel like they have a chance to win and that is always important, that you feel like you have a chance to win,” Anderson said. “As we get ready got Texas A&M, we know that is the biggest game on our schedule right now.

“And, of course, the next one will be playing against Kentucky, but our guys are going to have confidence wherever we play,” Anderson added.

Michael Qualls

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