It's time for the University of Arkansas basketball program to drop it Old School.
The Razorbacks (7-2) will try to add to their five-game winning streak by hosting former Southwest Conference foe Rice (4-4) Saturday night at 7:35 p.m. in North Little Rock and then traveling to Dallas to play another old league foe in Texas Tech four days later.
Arkansas has not faced either squad since leaving the SWC back in 1991, but will host the Owls at Alltel Arena and then play their first game ever in American Airlines Arena at 9 p.m. on Wednesday night.
"These are some old school matchups," Razorback head coach Stan Heath said. "...Obviously there is a lot of history to that series and that is really one of the reasons we sought to get an opponent such as Rice."
It is the only time this season that Arkansas will play in Central Arkansas, an area that will get a rematch with Texas Tech next season in Alltel.
"We are looking forward to getting down to (North) Little Rock and playing in front of our fans in Central Arkansas and giving our fans that can't find a ticket to come up to Bud Walton sometimes," Heath said. "We are hoping the fans will turn out and support us and enjoy a old school matchup with Rice coming to town."
Arkansas is coming in off a thrilling 79-75 home win over previously unbeaten Missouri State Thursday night while Rice was blasting somebody called Palm Beach Atlantic 95-54.
The Owls' biggest win this season was a 96-94 win over visiting Utah in three overtimes while also downing New Mexico Highlands and Prairie View A&M.
They have lost at Marquette (82-65), at Oregon (84-60), at Texas (85-58) and to IUPUI 58-56.
"We can't take this team lightly," Heath said. "We have got to come to play and we've got to put last night's win behind us quickly and put our total attention on Rice. We want to play well in Little Rock and certainly don't want to have any letdowns. We want to continue to build momentum once we get closer and closer to conference play."
Rice head coach Willis Wilson, whose team is in Conference USA this season after being in the WAC, is in his 14th year as the head Owl.
"He's done a terrific job there," Heath said. "His team has had a lot of change over from last season with a lot of new guys last year. I stayed up late last night and watched tape on them and they had a nice win over Utah."
Rice sports 6-1 junior point guard Lorenzo Williams (14.0) , 6-6 junior forward Morris Almond (14.0) and 6-6 senior forward J.R. Harrison (12.6, 7.4) as its top three players with 6-5 senior Jamaal Moore (10.0) and 6-8 sophomore Patrick Britton (4.6) rounding out the starting five.
"He's got some young, talented guys," Heath said. " I was impressed with his point guard Lorenzo Williams, who is fast, left-handed and gets to the basket and a kid that has a good pull-up game. We are going to have to keep him out of the lane. They've got another kid in Morris Almond, who can knock down some shots and is hitting 50 percent from the 3 and J.R. Harrison is another one of those undersized four men that can present a problem because he can play inside and out."
Both Missouri State and Rice are just one-game home series for Arkansas, who is looking to add home-and-home games with Big 10, ACC and Big East teams and didn't want to have those slots already contracted.
"We wanted to get somebody high caliber (like Missouri State and Rice), but it is hard to do," Heath said. "Coach Broyles had to step in (financially) and go to the next level to make that happen. Fortunately Rice was receptive because they don't normally do that."
Arkansas will open with the same five it started Thursday night in 6-7 junior Ronnie Brewer (20.4), 6-5 senior guard Jonathon Modica (13.2), 6-8, 240-pound sophomore Charles Thomas (9.8) , 6-5 senior Dontell Jefferson (5.9), who has 60 assists and just 24 turnovers this season and 7-0, 250-pound sophomore center Steven Hill (3.7, 4.3), who has blocked 16 shots in the last two games.
The Razorbacks will also get siginifcant contributions from 6-10 sopohomore forward Darian Townes (10.4, 5.8) and 6-0 senior guard Eric Ferguson (6.3) and 6-10 sophomore forward Vincent Hunter (4.2).
While he thinks the win over Missouri State was a quality one, Heath saw some things his team needs to work on.
"I thought we had chances to put that game away," Heath said. "We were up 13 or so, but we missed a couple of lay-ups and Ronnie got a travel when I think we had a chance to put that thing up to about 19. I thought they caught us a little off guard by going to the zone to the start the second half. Normally teams don't start out in their second best defense."
Heath was curious about comment Missouri State head coach Barry Hinson had after Thursday night's game when he said that Arkansas tried to slow down the game.
"I kind of missed that part where we walked the ball up the court," Heath said. "I don't remember that. I found that a little bit hard to imagine since we had nice 14 or 13-point cushion and there was no reason for us to slow it down. We are certainly not the one who jumped in the 2-3 zone. I think Barry had to be kidding when he said that. I' ll leave it that."
While Arkansas' Saturday game will be televised by ARSN with Paul Eells and former Razorback Pat Bradley doing the honors, the Wednesday night one with Texas Tech will be on ESPN2 at start at 9 p.m.
"We just want to keep improving in these last games before we start conference play," Heath said. "That's what it is all about right now."
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