Razorbacks coming in off spanking in Houston.
FAYETTEVILLE - After receiving pats on the back for clobbering UConn before their last game last Saturday night, the Arkansas Razorbacks enter Walton Arena tonight off a kick in the pants.
The Razorbacks, 5-2, and the Colorado State Rams, 4-4, tip off at 7 p.m. on the Razorbacks’ radio network and SEC+ on the internet.
Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks had played impressively winning two of three against traditional powerhouses Oklahoma, North Carolina, their defeat, and UConn, particularly the 102-67 rout over UConn during the Thanksgiving weekend at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland.
However they got more than a comeuppance last Saturday night in Houston when the Houston Cougars embarrassed them, 91-65.
Anderson during his Monday press conference got downright defensive about his Hogs’ performance in Houston, not in their defense, but attacking their lack of defense and lack of understanding that what happened on the neutral floor against the Connecticut Huskies doesn’t necessarily translate against the Houston Cougars in Houston.
“Truth to be had, they are not as good as they think they are,” Anderson said. “I thought we got a hangover from the Connecticut game. We started believing the hype and the pat on the back coming back from it and we’re not understanding that when you play in a true road game against a Houston team that’s physical they are going to challenge you defensively they are going to get after you.”
Houston hit Arkansas with a game-opening 11-0 run from which the Hogs never recovered.
“We didn’t get off to a good start and that’s not a good sign on the road,” Anderson said. “So it’s humbling from the standpoint that you’ve got to play with that urgency right from the start no matter where you play whether it be at home, on the road or neutral site.”
And particularly for his style that relies on a tempo-setting pressure defense, Anderson says his teams must play defense which they didn’t at Houston.
“ We’ve got to get more defense involved in our game,” Anderson said. “We are trying to outscore people and I always say we are going to hang our hats on our defense. We’ve got to get defensive minded so there might be some shakeups in the lineup.”
Anderson has every game so far started senior guards Jaylen Barford, Daryl Macon and Anton Beard and forwards Forrest City High alum Trey Thompson, also a senior, and sophomore Adrio Bailey.
Since he normally considers his roster with nine starters given how amply he uses reserves, Anderson did not sound averse to inserting any of several reserves into the lineup including 6-10 center-forward Daniel Gafford of El Dorado, sophomore guard C.J. Jones and senior forward Dustin Thomas, a starter much of last season.
Shooting guard Jones averages 14.0 points his last three games and has improved defensively, Anderson said.
“I think C.J. is really getting more comfortable out on the floor,” Anderson said. “I think defensively he's doing some good things. He rebounds now and he's not getting as lost as he was last year. That's just experience, getting out there and playing.”
If Jones continues at his sophomore pace “his minutes will continue to go up,” Anderson said.
Jones, 11 points and 3 rebounds, and 6-8 forward Thomas, 9 points, 6 rebounds and a steal, were among the few Arkansas bright spots against Houston.
“He (Thomas) was our leading rebounder in the game,” Anderson said. “I thought he fought hard and played the right way.”
Senior forward Arlando Cook, not suiting up on disciplinary suspension Arkansas’ first six games and dressed out but not playing in Houston even with his suspension lifted, could contribute tonight, Anderson said.
“He’s ready,” Anderson said. “There are some guys that fix things on defense.”
Anderson did like that his Hogs responded from their loss to North Carolina by annihilating Connecticut. And having their first home game tonight since Nov. 17 should help.
But the coach warns that the Mountain West Conference Rams of veteran former Iowa State and Southern Miss Coach Larry Eustachy are not to be taken lightly coming off Saturday’s 72-63 over previously undefeated instate rival Colorado of the Pac 12.
“They beat a good Colorado team,” Anderson said. “They played Florida State early in the year and played with them for about 35 minutes. They were right there with them.”
Eustachy’s Rams seek a slower tempo than Anderson prefers but still have four averaging double-scoring figures paced by the 15.9 of guard Nixon Prentiss.
Colorado State sophomore reserve forward Lorenzo “Doobie” Jenkins, was a scholarship Razorbacks freshman in 2015-2016 serving mainly as a practice player logging just one game played before transferring and redshirting in 2016-2017 at Colorado State.
Jenkins averages 13.4 minutes playing every Rams game this season.
“I'm sure he's going to be a charged up guy ready to play,” Anderson said. “He's doing a good job for Larry Eustachy out there. He's probably got this one circled on the calendar in terms of having a chance to come back and play at a place where he practiced each and every day.”