Arkansas returns to the court on Sunday following a nine-day layoff and Coach Mike Anderson feels his team is ready to start a tough part of its schedule.
Sophomore guard B.J. Young will make his season debut on Sunday against Longwood.
Arkansas defeated Sam Houston State 73-68 on Nov. 9 in Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks will face Longwood on Sunday afternoon at 3 in Bud Walton.
“I think our guys are chomping at the bits to get back on the court and play someone other than ourselves,” Anderson said. “We've had some workouts since our last game.”
Anderson and the team will hit the road later in the week to head to Las Vegas though the Longwood game is tied to that trip.
“This starts a tournament actually...the Las Vegas Invitational and we get a chance to host Longwood here,” Anderson said.
Arkansas will then host Florida A&M on Tuesday night at 7 before going on the road. Arkansas will then play Arizona State on Friday evening at 6 in Las Vegas before facing either Creighton or Wisconsin on Saturday night at a time to be determined. Despite playing so many games in a short time after a long layoff Anderson isn't so much concerned about that.
“It's more so about our basketball team,” Anderson said. “Seeing us develop and get better from game to game.
“Obviously there was some things we didn't do well especially the rebounding part of it which is the physicality and the effort part of it. Hopefully that is something we've shored up and worked on in practice.”
Anderson hopes to find out on Sunday how much the Hogs have improved during the nine days of practice.
“I'm anxious to come and see if we addressed those things we didn't do well in our first game against Sam Houston," Anderson said. “Whether it be first-game nerves or not playing with the kind of effort you've got to play with."
“You've got to have that sense of urgency in any game that we play. We're still a young basketball team, no seniors on this team.”
Sophomore guard B.J. Young missed the second exhibition and the Sam Houston State games due to a suspension. Young will return to action on Sunday.
“He gets a chance to play in this game,” Anderson said.
While all the players are looking forward to getting on the court Sunday, Anderson said he anticipates Young may be the most looking forward to it. Anderson also said a decision on if Young will start on Sunday will be made just before tipoff.
“He's probably more wound up than they are,” Anderson said. “We will see when the game actually starts and he gets out there and gets a sweat. We'll see what takes place after that. He's hungry to get back on the court.”
Anderson feels one area that this year's team is much better than last year's version is the depth.
“We've got some weapons,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, now we will have the full arsenal. We just want to put this team together and keep it getting better.”
Sam Houston State outrebounded the Razorbacks 36-23 in the opener and Anderson said the team can't continue getting beat on the boards like that. Anderson does feel the guards have to help with the rebounding and not rely on Marshawn Powell, Hunter Mickelson and Coty Clarke to get all the rebounds.
“It started the night after that game,” Anderson said of when the team started working on fixing the issues. “That's more effort and focus. We've been getting at it pretty good. I expect to see a drastic improvement in that area from all our guys out on the floor. We've got a good team that's going to rebound by committee.”
The majority of the fans aren't familiar with Longwood, but Anderson is looking forward to the match-up.
“They've got a couple of guys who can shoot the ball,” Anderson said. “They're going to get after us. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It's a team our guys better come and play close attention to.”
The Razorbacks have four true freshmen and Clarke, a transfer from junior college, as newcomers on this team. The freshmen are Anthlon Bell, Michael Qualls, Jacorey Williams and Dee Wagner. Anderson expects the group to play better in coming games though Clarke had a big game in the opener. Clarke finished with 20 points and four rebounds in the opener.
“I think at times they looked like freshmen,” Anderson said. “Coty was the one that was probably the most comfortable, but he's a junior college player and that's to be expected. I think this second game hopefully they'll settle down. Of all the freshmen, I thought Jacorey looked the more natural in that first game.”