A skidding Arkansas basketball team that has lost three straight will host a pair of old friends this week with former Southwest Conference foes Texas A&M and Texas Tech coming to Bud Walton Arena.
SEC leader Texas A&M (17-2, 7-0) – who moved to No. 5 in the country on Monday and is riding a 10-game winning streak – will visit the Razorbacks (9-10, 3-4) Wednesday night at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.
Texas Tech (12-6, 2-5) and former Little Rock Parkview star Aaron Ross will then be in Fayetteville Saturday at 3 p.m. for the Big 12/SEC Challenge in game that will always be on ESPNU.
“It’s a big week in a lot of ways especially for us,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “We are playing one of the hottest teams in the country in Texas A&M. They were in the top 10 last year and probably the top five this year so we have a tremendous chore in front of us. But it’s an opportunity. We are looking forward to it. “
Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy team – who has achieved the highest ever poll ranking in school history - hammered Arkansas 92-69 back on Jan. 2 in both team’s SEC opener.
He sees the Razorbacks as a wounded, but dangerous foe.
“Well, when their backs are against the wall, especially at Bud Walton, that's not a good time to be going in there, you know,” Kennedy said.
“That's a proud program and a proud team that won 27 games last year. They're playing hard and they're doing what Mike wants them to do. Looks like they've got a good group of kids who care about winning and doing the right things. We're going to have to play extremely well and value the ball to win there.”
In the team’s lone meeting last season, Arkansas roared out to a 33-9 lead in the first half in a game in which former Razorback coach Nolan Richardson was honored.
The Aggies rallied after intermission, but Arkansas held on for a 81-75 win.
“We got our butts kicked the first half at Arkansas last year,” Kennedy said. “So our guys remember that. I don’t think we will go in there thinking because we handled them at home that it will be easy there because that is a different animal. That’s a different Hog when you go into Bud Walton. My older guys know that for sure.”
While the Arkansas stars from that game are gone with the exception of Anthlon Bell (14 points), Texas A&M is a loaded, experience club this season that starts four seniors and a freshman.
They are led by the high-scoring combo of 6-6, 220-pound guard Jalen Jones (17.5, 6.8) and 6-7, 212-pound senior Danuel House (15.3, 5.1).
That pair has been joined in the starting line up by 6-10, 270-pound freshman big man Tyler Davis (11.2, 5.8), 6-5 senior guard Alex Caruso (7.6, 5.12 assists per game) and 6-1 senior guard Anthony Collins (5.2).
“They are playing as good as anyone in the country and when you have got senior players such as a Collins, and I think he does a good job of running the show, but the kid who is really playing well is Jalen Jones,” Anderson said. “We know House is a pro. We know Caruso is a glue guy for their team. So you look at the Texas A&M team it’s a great mixture of veteran guys, senior guys with some talented young players that are really coming on for Coach Kennedy and his team."
Davis missed A&M’s 66-53 home win over Missouri Saturday due to a foot injury, but is expected back for the Arkansas game.
“We could have played Tyler on Saturday if we thought it was something that was in the best interest of him and the longevity of our season,” Kennedy said. “In talking to our medical staff, he had some discomfort in his foot. They said resting it a couple of days should help it. We expect to have him on Wednesday.”
Arkansas will counter with its starting five of 6-3 junior guard Dusty Hannahs (16.6), 6-3 senior guard Anthlon Bell (16.6), 6-10 junior center Moses Kingsley (16.4, 9.3), 6-1 senior guard Jabril Durham (6.3, 7.2 assists per game) and 6-7 senior forward Keaton Miles (3.8, 3.1).
“Hannahs being in the lineup now, as good as he's played, has been a big lift for them.,” Kennedy said. “They're playing a lot of new guys, a lot of young guys that weren't a factor with them last year.
“…I think the Georiga game and the LSU game were two games I think they were in position to win. A play here or a play there and I think they would have won those games.”