Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
UA coach no Ebenezer Anderson
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson instructs his players in the second half against Alabama A&M Saturday at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas forwards Marshawn Powell and Jacorey Williams sounded a little concerned about Coach Mike Anderson giving the players a break for Christmas.
Nothing wrong with a little time off, the players said after the Razorbacks beat Alabama A&M 95-68 on Saturday night at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, but they worry about losing momentum before next Saturday’s game against Northwestern (La.) State and what’s in store when practice resumes at 9 p.m. Christmas day.
“I’m pretty excited to see my family,” said Williams, who is taking a quick trip home to Birmingham, Ala., “but then I’m not too excited to be away from the team and take some days off, because I’ll be a little winded the next time we practice.”
Powell, who plans to remain in Fayetteville during the short break, said he plans to get in some work in the gym on his own while waiting for practice to resume.
I feel like anybody that plays basketball, anybody that’s made it to Division I or any kind of college level, you don’t really like to take days off,” said Powell, a redshirt junior who scored 20 points against Alabama A&M and has 1,001 for his career. “I mean, I’m a basketball player.It’s what I love to do.”
Williams, a freshman, said he’s going to make sure and get in some work on his game.
“It’s a must,” said Williams, who had 10 points off the bench against Alabama A&M. “You’ve got to get in the gym.”
Anderson said it’s important for his players to get a break for Christmas, noting the Razorbacks (7-4) have been going almost nonstop since August, when they practiced for a tour of Italy that included four exhibition games.
“I’m not a total Scrooge,” Anderson said. “Now it’s time for them to go enjoy their families. Then let’s get back so we can really finetune this basketball team and get ready for SEC play. That’s the most important thing.”
Plus, the Razorbacks, who open SEC play at Texas A&M on Jan. 9, have endured an ambitious nonconference schedule, including a five-game stretch in which they lost to Arizona State and Wisconsin in Las Vegas, returned to Fayetteville and lost to No. 3 Syracuse and beat Oklahoma, then lost at No. 2 Michigan.
“We played some pretty good people, and we were tested,” Anderson said. “Some of those tests we took, we didn’t pass them. We battled, we competed, and we’ll have some more tests along the way.”
Anderson said games against Alabama A&M and Robert Morris, which Arkansas beat 79-74 last Thursday night, also can cause concern about the team’s mentality.
“Sometimes those are games that you worry about because you wonder are your guys focused in? Have they honed in on the things we’ve been talking about and working on?”
The Razorbacks jumped out to a 22-8 lead against Alabama A&M, making their first seven shots. They shot 51.4 percent from the field (36 of 70), had 19 offensive rebounds, had 22 assists compared to 9 turnovers and forced 18 turnovers that led to 24 points.
“When we share the ball, we’re tough to defend,” Anderson said. “ Because now you’ve got to figure out, ‘Hey, who are you going to guard?’ ”
Thirteen Razorbacks played between 8 and 25 minutes and 12 players scored.
“We played a lot of guys, and lot of guys got some quality minutes,” Anderson said. “They put on a show.”
Sophomore 6-10 forward Hunter Mickelson, who had a career-high 16 points against Robert Morris, followed that up with 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 2 steals in 16 minutes while facing Alabama A&M 7-footer Justan Banks.
“You can see him just kind of changing right before your eyes,” Anderson said. “He’s playing with the tenacity that you’ve got to play with as a guy that size.”
Anderson said his plan is for Razorbacks to practice twice on Wednesday and Thursday after the light practice on Christmas night.
“They don’t have school going on, so with the idle time we’re going to hit some twoa-days, get a lot of shooting in, continue to work on execution,” Anderson said. “As we get more cylinders clicking, we can be a very dangerous team.”
Sports, Pages 13 on 12/24/2012