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.
Expect Demons, Hogs to run, gun
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said the Razorbacks' game against Northwestern State “may be up, up and away tempo. They want to play fast and we want to play fast."
FAYETTEVILLE Maybe the 35-second shot clock should just be turned off tonight in Walton Arena.
It doesn’t figure to come into play much, if at all. Not with two of the top five scoring teams in the nation facing off.
Visiting Northwestern (La.) State is averaging 86.3 points per game to rank second only to Indiana (89.1). Arkansas is averaging 83.0 points to tie Syracuse for fifth.
Hard to see either team taking too much time firing up shots.
“It may be up, up and away tempo,” Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. “They want to play fast. We want to play fast. So we’ll see what takes place.”
Northwestern State Coach Mike McConathy said the Demons won’t hold the ball to try and slow down the Razorbacks.
“I feel like our team is better when we’re moving the ball up and down the floor,” McConathy said. “That’s who we are, so that’s the way that we’ll try and give it our best shot.”
Northwestern State (5-3) had a shot to beat an Oklahoma team that nearly won in Walton Arena. The Demons led at Oklahoma by two points with 2:50 left before the Sooners rallied to win 69-65. Arkansas beat Oklahoma 81-78 at home after the Sooners took a 78-77 lead in the final minute.
The Demons’ other two losses were against SEC teams, 78-65 at Texas A&M and 102-95 at LSU, where they were within four points in the final minutes.
“At A&M, we didn’t play very well, but against Oklahoma and LSU we were competitive and in a position to win,” McConathy said. “I think that gives us the ability to understand that we belong on the same floor when we play at Arkansas, even though Arkansas will put defensive pressure on us like we haven’t seen yet.
“Belonging is important, because if your kids feel like they belong, they always have a chance to win the game. If you go out for a game and don’t belong on the floor with the other team, then you’ve got problems.”
Anderson said Northwestern State reminds him of Robert Morris University, a team Arkansas (7-4) struggled to beat 79-74 at Walton Arena on Dec. 20.
“One of those dangerous teams,” Anderson said. “Guys can really score, shoot the basketball. They’re an athletic team, and they’re also deep.
“I always tell our guys,’You can’t afford to just look at the name on the jerseys. Everybody’s got good players.’ Hopefully, our guys know we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
The Razorbacks practiced twice Wednesday and Thursday after getting three days off for Christmas.
“It was tough,” Arkansas sophomore guard BJ Young said. “Coach A wanted to run all the food out of us and make sure that we’re more than ready for the game coming up and conference play and all the other games.
“Everybody came back with a good focus.”
Northwestern State has 10 players averaging between 14.1 and 26.5 minutes and is led by junior forward DaQuan Hicks (averaging 14.9 points), senior guard Shamir Davis (14.4 points) and freshman guard Jalan West (14.1 points).
Senior forward James Hulbin (11.5 points per game) scored 29 against LSU and Hicks scored 28. Davis scored 18 points against Texas A&M.
West scored 16 points against Texas A&M and 13 against Oklahoma. He’s hit 19 of 44 three-pointers on the season.
“He can shoot it from anywhere,” Arkansas junior guard Rickey Scott said. “He just pulls up.”
McConathy said he expects West, who has 43 assists and 19 turnovers, to be ready to handle the Razorbacks’ pressure defense.
“I think he’ll be just fine,” McConathy sad. “He’s a pretty solid player and has played fine in big games.”
Arkansas sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson said the Demons have the Razorbacks’ attention.
“Everybody’s got our attention,” Mickelson said. “It’s definitely going to be a good test, and hopefully we’ll go out there and take care of business.”
The Demons are playing their first game in two weeks, since beating Missouri Valley 95-78 on Dec. 15. McConathy said he put a break into the December schedule because Northwestern State played a four-game exhibition tour of Canada in August.
“Playing at Arkansas when we haven’t had a game in a while is definitely a concern,” McConathy said. “We bounced a few passes off the walls at practice. It was a little bit unnerving.”
After playing Northwestern State, the Razorbacks’ final nonconference game is against Delaware State on Jan. 5 before they open SEC play at Texas A&M on Jan. 9.
“We just need to know we’re getting ready for something bigger, and we’re preparing as hard as we can and as well as we can for every game and every possession,” Young said. “We just want to send out a message to anyone that comes in here that they’re going to have a hard time.”
ARKANSAS VS. NORTHWESTERN (LA.) STATE WHEN 7 p.m.
WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 7-4; Northwestern State 5-3 SERIES Arkansas leads 7-1 TELEVISION RSN telecast, which includes KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock; KFTA-TV, Channel 24, in Fayetteville and KAIT-TV, Channel 8, in Jonesboro.
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
Sports, Pages 19 on 12/29/2012