Hogs get some help with Anton Beard returning to help over loaded point guard Jabril Durham

Antony Beard returns from suspension to provide point guard help for the Arkansas basketball team in Saturday matchup with Mercer in North Little Rock.

Jabril Durham averages a team-high 30.8 minutes for the Arkansas basketball team. Mike Anderson said Wednesday that help is on the way with the return of Anton Beard.

Durham has been effective playing as many as 35 minutes at times this season, but Anderson would prefer his guards play more in the 25-minute range. Beard, suspended the first nine games, can help make that a reality when he joins the team for the 7 p.m. Saturday date with Mercer at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

Anderson, the fifth-year Arkansas coach, isn't sure exactly how many minutes Beard will play Saturday, but confirmed at a Wednesday media briefing that the sophomore point guard would get some action.

"He'll play," Anderson said. "He's in a good frame of mind. He's been practicing for two weeks. His conditioning is not the same as the other guys and his timing is not the same. But he'll bring grit and determination. I think "Ton" has made our practices more competition. I think "Ton" will be okay and try to add to what we are doing."

Later, Anderson was asked about Beard's excitement level.

"He's chomping at the bit," Anderson said. "Yes he's excited. I'll probably have to temper him a little.

"He doesn't have to try to be the saviour. He just needs to add to what we are getting.

"The guys are playing like I want them to play. I do think we can get better defensively, but we are sharing the basketball and I like what I'm getting."

Anderson praised the work of Durham. He pointed to his rebounding and assists. He averages 4.3 rebounds and his 73 assists is clearly the team lead. Manny Watkins is next with 26.

"Jabril is getting in the lane and delivering the ball," Anderson said. "The fact that Dusty Hannahs and Anthlon Bell shoot it so well provides some openings and then Jabril is getting it to our big guys in good places to score. He's been very efficient and playing at a high level.

"We've got others playing at a high level. Willy Kouassi is leaving his area to get rebounds. Moses Kingsley blocked eight shots in the last game and is close to averaging a double double."

The 5-4 Hogs face a tough challenge in Mercer. The Bears (8-2) are coming off a 78-71 loss at Auburn.

"They played Auburn tit for tat," Anderson said. "They gave Auburn a tough game. They have a very good team. It's going to be a tough game. They have seven guys averaging over six points a game. They have balance.

"Jestin Lewis and Stephon Jelks are very good players. Phillip Leonard was part of their NCAA run a few years ago. Those are good players and they have a good player coming in off the bench in Jordan Strawberry."

Lewis leads the Bears at 11.8 points per game. Jelks, 6-6 forward, averages 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds.

Anderson imagines a lineup with more versatility with Beard joining Durham. They could play together.

"Yes, they can and probably will in this game," Anderson said. "Jabril has become one of our best defenders. So you add Anton and you have two guys who can really harass you all over the floor. Both of those guys are disruptive and that's better for us."

The trip to the Little Rock area is something Anderson loves. His teams are 3-1 at Verizon.

"They don't get to see us every day," Anderson said. "So when we go there, players show up and they are passionate. I think our players want to do well there and I know the fans come in big numbers and show out. I think playing there for us is about an advantage of about plus 8 points because of the atmosphere. I enjoy going there to Central Arkansas."

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