Rough sledding a slippery slope for Razorbacks

By: Jeff Halpern
Published: Saturday, December 22, 2012
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson, speaking at the Downtown Tip-Off Club luncheon Friday in North Little Rock, said it remains to be seen how a tough schedule will affect the Razorbacks.
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson, speaking at the Downtown Tip-Off Club luncheon Friday in North Little Rock, said it remains to be seen how a tough schedule will affect the Razorbacks.

— Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said he knows the Razorbacks’ rigorous nonconference schedule can impact the team in one of two ways.

“It’s either going to make us better or deflate us,” Anderson said Friday when addressing the Downtown Tip-Off Club audience at the Wyndham Hotel in North Little Rock. “We want to use it to our advantage.”

Arkansas (6-4), which faces Alabama A&M at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock tonight, has lost to two of the nation’s top-ranked teams, No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Syracuse, as well as enduring losses to Wisconsin (7-4) and Arizona State (9-2) at the Las Vegas Invitational on Nov. 23-24.

Arkansas took a 3-2 record into its Nov. 30 home date with Syracuse, beat Oklahoma at Walton Arena on Dec. 4, then traveled to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan on Dec. 8.

“I know we went toe to toe with Syracuse [a 91-82 loss], and at Michigan [a 80-67 loss] we were down by one with six minutes to go,” Anderson said. “I hope we can apply the lessons that we’ve learned. When we go into the SEC, we want to be able to contend.

Mike Anderson speaks to LR Tipoff Club

Coach Mike Anderson speaks to the LR Tipoff Club on Friday. The Arkansas Razorbacks face Alabama A&M at 7 tonight at the Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. (By Daniel Krupsaw)
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“We make a lot of sacrifices in November and December for the sake of March. We want to be a factor when March rolls around.”

Arkansas had its hands full Thursday night in a 79-74 victory over Robert Morris, outscoring the Colonials 20-5 to take a 57-46 lead with 11:18 to play before holding on in the final minutes.

“We had a chance to go for the jugular but made some bad shots,” Anderson said. “Some of the mistakes we’ve made is because we’re learning ... and hopefully we’ll reload and learn to be aggressive.”

Anderson praised 6-7 junior Marshawn Powell, who is averaging 16.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game after missing all but the first two games last season after sustaining a serious knee injury.

“He’s starting to play at a high level again,” Anderson said of Powell, who had 12 points and nine rebounds against Robert Morris. “The timing and rhythm is starting to come back to him again.

BJ Young, a 6-3 sophomore, had 23 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists Thursday night and leads Arkansas in scoring at 17.1 points per game. But Anderson said he would like to see Young improve his shooting percentage from the field.

“He never met a shot he didn’t like,” Anderson said of Young, who is shooting 45.9 percent. “He’s a lot like Todd Day in that regard.”

Anderson said a rigorous off season conditioning program has contributed to the improved play of 6-10 sophomore center Hunter Mickelson, who scored 14 of his career-high 16 points in the second half Thursday night.

“He’s starting to play to his size,” Anderson said.

Anderson brightened up when he saw a future Razorback - 6-9 Little Rock Hall forward Bobby Portis - sitting right in front of him Friday.

Portis, who signed a letter of intent to play for Arkansas last month, sat in the audience after being honored as the Tip-Off Club’s player of the week.

“We want to get the best players in the state,” Anderson said. “Not only is he the best player in the state, but he’s one of the best players in the country and he fits in with what we’re doing.

“I don’t look at the number of stars next to a player because you can’t put a star on a guy’s heart. Look at Scotty Thurman. He wasn’t a five star recruit, but he developed into one.”

Sports, Pages 21 on 12/22/2012

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