Loss, finals, trip to North Little Rock to test Razorbacks

Verizon Arena / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com

We’re spoiled as fans today.

Nearly every Razorback football, basketball, and baseball game is either televised or is available to be streamed on any number of viewing devices, be it a computer, tablet, phone, or smart television.

However this Saturday night that is not the case as Mike Anderson’s Arkansas basketball squad (6-2) makes its annual trip to North Little to play Texas-San Antonio at Verizon Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday. If you want to see the Hogs face the Road Runners (3-6), who are picked to win Conference USA, you’ll have to buy a ticket.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: vs. Texas-San Antonio
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15
Where: Verizon Arena, North Little Rock
TV: Not televised

Remaining schedule

Dec. 19 – Georgia Tech
Dec. 22 – Texas State
Dec. 28 – Austin Peay
Jan. 5 – at Texas A&M
Jan. 9 – Florida
Jan. 12 – LSU
Jan. 15 – at Tennessee
Jan. 19 – at Ole Miss
Jan. 23 – Missouri
Jan. 26 – at Texas Tech
Jan. 29 – Georgia
Feb. 2 – at LSU
Feb. 5 – Vanderbilt
Feb. 9 – at South Carolina
Feb. 12 – at Missouri
Feb. 16 – Mississippi State
Feb. 20 – at Auburn
Feb. 23 – Texas A&M
Feb. 26 – at Kentucky
March 2 – Ole Miss
March 6 – at Vanderbilt
March 9 – Alabama
March 13-17 – SEC Tournament

The game isn’t televised nor will it be streamed. The next best option to being there is tuning into Razorback Spots Network where you listen to the Voice of the Razorbacks Chuck Barrett call the game with UA Director of Basketball Operations Matt Zimmerman, providing home-spun analysis and insight.

This is a game the Hogs should win, but the Road Runners can’t be taken lightly like the young and inexperienced Razorbacks did Western Kentucky last Saturday, or the Hogs might end up building a losing streak instead of gettin back into the win column.

Western Kentucky is a good basketball team that should make it back to the NIT again this season if they aren’t in the NCAA Tournament, but the Hilltoppers should not have walked out of Bud Walton Arena with a victory, even if only by one point.

This Hog team is talented, but not talented enough to sleepwalk through portions of games like they did last Saturday.

The Razorbacks played flat-footed against Western Kentucky, particularly during the early going of the second half.

After a 16-point swing that saw the Hogs fall behind by 8 points, it was to the Razorbacks’ credit that they found their footing and got back in the game. However, if Arkansas had played with the defensive intensity it had in previous games, we’d be talking about a seven-game winning streak instead of a loss.

Anderson reiterated Thursday that sometimes “a pat on the back will set you back.”

The Head Hog felt his freshmen and sophomore-dominated squad may have been overconfident and not played with the intensity and tenacity on defense that allowed them to build a six-game winning streak after dropping an overtime loss to Texas in their opener.

His Hogs have had an entire week to think about the loss and how it happened as they took a break from playing games to concentrate on final exams this week.

Anderson said practice has been coordinated around the players’ test schedules, and he is anxious to see how the squad responds after dealing with some adversity on the court as well as will the pressures of final exams.

“We’re going to see how they respond and handle what’s on their plate with the various other things surrounding this game,” Anderson said.

Not only must the Hogs turn their thoughts to hoops after a week of intensive study but also, several of the Razorbacks will be playing in front of friends and family who haven’t been able to make it to Walton Arena for a game this season.

There are some added pressures with this game, that the players usually don’t have to deal with when playing at Walton Arena, Anderson said.

One Hog who did play well against Western Kentucky was Desi Sills. The 6-2 freshman guard from Jonesboro came off the bench to score 9 points and grab 2 rebounds as well as play solid defense.

“Desi is a spark plug off the bench,” Anderson said. “He distributes the ball and still attacks the basket. He used to winning. He’s going to do the things that help you win. His defense is his strength. I like his intensity. He can score and rebound, but I love him because he talks on defense. He’s a communicator. That’s very important for our team.”

Anderson feels this period of time he has will his young team where they can concentrate on basketball only will be valuable to his team before the Razorbacks enter Southeastern Conference play on Jan. 5 at Texas A&M.?
Anderson said he wants to ground the team and make sure they understand that if they’re going to be successful, it’s is going to be through their defensive play.

How well the Razorback perform defensively will be a clue to whether the Hogs learned their lesson at Western Kentucky, and how in tune they are with Anderson and his coaching staff just a few week before conference plays opens.

Hot Notes

Arkansas sophomore point guard Jalen Harris ranks second in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (6.44), and also ranks seventh in the nation in assists per game at 7.3, which makes him tops in the SEC.

With 4.13 three-pointers made each game, Isaiah Joe ranks fifth in the nation in the category. Joe leads the SEC in three-pointers made with 33 and in 3-point field-goal percentage at 46.5 percent. Freshman wing Mason Jones is second in the SEC in 3-point field-goal percentage at 44.7 percent.

Sophomore center Daniel Gafford leads the SEC and is ranked 12th in the nation in field-goal percentage at 66.7 percent. He’s the only SEC player to rank in the league’s top five of field-goal percentage, scoring (2nd at 19.5 ppg.), rebounding (4th 8.8 reg.), and block shots (4th 2.38 big.).