But then senior center Michael Washington decided to show why he was named to the preseason all-SEC first-team earlier in the day and a big reason for any kind of success his team will have this season.
Washington poured in 25 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots, true freshman Glenn Bryant chipped in 17 points, four swats and Rotnei Clarke added 14 points as the Razorbacks routed NAIA Dillard University 77-59 Monday night before 2,278 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
"He (Washington) showed why he is our best player," Clarke said.
Bryant, 6-of-12 from the field and 5-of-7 from the line, showed his athleticism and why the UA staff was so happy to sign him.
"I thought he made some really good plays," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "For a first year guy, obviously he doesn't know where he is going all the time yet, but he is focused, made some very good athletic plays and really helped us tonight."
"Marshawn is sick," Pelphrey said. "He didn't feel well yesterday, but he did practice. He just had a fever today. I don't exactly know what he has got, but he is sick and it was in his best interest to be resting and certainly in the team's best interest, too."
Sanchez is out with an injury while Welsh is on an indefinite suspension. Mason is a practice-team player that has had some off-court issues and is someone Pelphrey doesn't expect to dress out anyway.
The Razorbacks will be staggering some suspensions resulting from an on-campus incident, but none were served Monday night other than Welsh's one for a different situation according to the head coach.
Welsh will definitely miss some regular season games and could miss up until the entire first semester, Pelphrey said.
"Right now at this moment in time I can't tell you either one," Pelphrey said. "It is possible, but by the same token it is also a possibility that he comes back and plays before that. It is up to me, but up to him…
"…I think he has done a very good to this point in time," Pelphrey added. "Since he has been back, he has worked real hard in school and is doing very well there. He is in practice every single day, trying to get better, trying to help the team."
Asked why Welsh was suspended, Pelphrey said he could not say.
"I can't – I am not allowed to," Pelphrey said.
Ironically, redshirting freshman quarterback Brandon Mitchell was dressed out and on the bench, but did not play as Razorback football coach Bobby Petrino and Pelphrey are working out how they will share the player's talent.
As far as the actual game, the head coach saw some things that pleased him and some that did not, and noted that is what exhibition games are for.
"These exhibition games are for a reason and are obviously very important to us because of some of the things that we are going to have to deal with in terms of odd lineups, some of the guys we are going to be playing early on here," Pelphrey said. "At times you could really tell who the experienced players were and who were the first-year guys."
Arkansas will finish up its two-game exhibition slate against Lemoyne Owen on Thursday and then open the season on Friday, Nov. 13 against Alcorn State.
"They give you an understanding of where you are and what you have got to work on," Pelphrey said. "We have got a couple of days here now to go back to practice and look at it and see if we can't get better for the next one. Then we will have about a week before we play our first game."
Sophomore point guard Courtney Fortson did not start – Pelphrey said he started freshman Julysess Nobles to get him experience - but came off the bench to score eight points and drop nine assists.
"His punishment will still be to come," Pelphrey said of Fortson, who posted an ill-advised message on Twitter earlier this year.
It was a night when Arkansas shot 39.2 percent (29-of-74) from the field, 57.1 percent (12-of-21) from the free throw line and only 21.9 percent from beyond the arc.
"There was some good moments, but obviously a lot of stuff we have to work on and clean up," Pelphrey said.
Washington showed off both his offense and defense early with a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers sandwiched between forcing one turnover and blocking a shot that led to a baseline jumper for him.
That stretch surged Arkansas from a 13-11 lead to a 21-11 one with 9:37 left in the opening half.
"Operating there early we were able to get about whatever shot we wanted because they were playing zone," Pelphrey said. "Being young at several spots out there, we went several trips up and down the floor without getting the ball. Then all of a sudden he was able to step out and really got into it really quick with a couple of those 3-point shots."
The lead grew to 17 when Clarke hit his fourth 3-pointer to put the Razorbacks up 43-26 with 90 seconds left before intermission.
|Photo by: Marc F. Henning|
|Glenn Bryant scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Arkansas' win.|
Junior college transfer center Delvon Johnson's old-fashioned 3-point play capped the first-half scoring and sent Arkansas to the break with a 47-28 lead.
The Bleu Devils did score the first six points of the second half, before Pelphrey took a timeout and the Razorbacks began to overwhelm their foe.
By the time Fortson drilled a 3-pointer, the UA squad had raced out to a 62-39 lead with 12:39 left in the game.
Walk-on Stephen Cox actually started and got in on the fun with his only two points that made it 69-43 – a 26-point lead that was the Razorbacks' largest of the night.
By that time a lot of the small crowd that was on hand had headed for the exits.
"I think it is the time of the year," Pelphrey said. "We are playing basketball earlier than we ever have. Obviously football season is still in full swing. Am I surprised? I am probably not real surprised by anything in college athletics, but the bottom line is we know how great out fans are."
Johnson had five points, six rebounds and two blocks in a contest where Arkansas had nine rejections in all.
Jemal Farmer added four points and six rebounds for Arkansas; Nobles two points, six boards and three assists; and Marcus Britt added a rebound.
Myron McGowan led Dillard with 20 points and 12 rebounds whle Autrail Manning added 14 points and James Burkes 11 boards.