Arkansas tries to climb closer to a .500 record in the SEC when it plays host to South Carolina tonight at 8 at Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson will be counting on freshman Bobby Portis to play well against South Carolina.
Arkansas (16-9, 5-7) and South Carolina (10-15, 3-9) aren't two of the top teams in the SEC right now, but both seem to be gaining some momentum at this time. Arkansas has won three of its last four games with its only loss a close one on the road at Missouri. The Gamecocks have won two games in a row.
South Carolina beat Alabama and Vanderbilt last week. Both Arkansas and South Carolina have a freshman who has helped propel their momentum. For Arkansas, center Bobby Portis has been the catalyst for Arkansas' better play of late. South Carolina will feature guard Sindarius Thornwell. Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson has been impressed with Thornwell.
“He's leading their team in scoring, so he's got the green light,” Anderson said. “He's playing with a lot of confidence. They recruited him to come there and be an impact player, very much like Bobby for us.”
Portis is averaging 13.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game for the Razorbacks. Kansas State Coach Frank Martin is in his second year at Columbia and likes what he has seen from Thornwell thus far.
“His growth as a player has been extremely fun to be around,” Martin said. “I know we're excited for who he is, and who he's becoming.”
The hot streak lately for Arkansas has the players and some fans thinking maybe a spot in the NCAA Tournament isn't as far-fetched as one would think assuming the Razorbacks play well the rest of the season. Senior Coty Clarke is one who is playing better right now and said there's a reason.
“The sense of urgency is very high,” Clarke said. “That's why I'm raising my level of focus and play to a max, to where I can put my team in position that we can continue to play better and make this run.”
Anderson appreciates what Clarke has done to help lead this team through some good times and some not-as-good times as well.
Coty Clarke has been a senior leader for Hogs.
“He's a calming force,” Anderson said. “He's just a glue guy who has done a lot of good things.”
One thing Anderson would like to see Clarke be able to do though is avoid foul trouble. Clarke has fouled out of three games this season and had seven more games where played with four fouls.
“I've been doing it since I was knee-high,” Clarke said. “It's just being aggressive and trying to use my instincts.”
Anderson doesn't mind the aggressive fouls so much, it's the touch fouls that Clarke draws on occasion that Anderson would like to see eliminated.
“Those cheap fouls where he's reaching come back to haunt him,” Anderson said. “I think he's got to be a little bit more selective defensively.”
The game will be shown on Comcast Sports Southeast tonight. Martin and Anderson are familiar with one another from the Big 12. Anderson obviously coached at Missouri and Martin at Kansas State.