Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers. He and his wife live in Fayetteville.
Early scheduling void a result of more SEC games
Mike Anderson has nine days to prepare for Arkansas' second game of the season.
FAYETTEVILLE Credit league newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M with Arkansas' nine-day layoff one game into its basketball season.
After a 73-68 season-opening win over Sam Houston State last Friday, the Razorbacks won't take the court again until hosting Longwood on Sunday afternoon. With the expansion of the Southeastern Conference by two teams and schedule by two games, Arkansas is playing fewer nonconference games in the same time frame as years past.
"It was just how the schedule kind of worked," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "With the 18 games you've got in conference now, it kind of threw a couple of games in January and February where you used to have open dates. It leaves you a window.
"It's not all bad. It leaves us a chance to get some practice in."
Anderson undoubtedly welcomes extra practice after a closer-than-expected win in the opener. The Razorbacks were out-rebounded 36-23 in the game and struggled to put the Southland Conference foe away despite multiple double-digit leads in the second half.
"I told our guys a lot of things came easy when you're an uptempo team," Anderson said. "You're pressuring, your defense is in lanes and when have some success with that, you get a little greedy. I think we came out with that mindset against Sam Houston State.
"We did some things that enabled them to stay in the game."
Arkansas was without a major piece to its roster in the win, though, as guard BJ Young served the second of a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Young, who was named to the Wooden Award preseason watch list earlier this week, will be back for the game against Longwood.
Young led Arkansas and all SEC freshmen last season with 15.3 points per game and averaged a team-high 25.2 minutes per game.
"It's a team boost," said Coty Clarke, a junior college transfer who scored 20 points in his debut Friday. "He's one of our players, one of our guys, one of our brothers."
Longwood, a Big South Conference school located in Farmville, Va., is 0-1 this season following an 81-47 loss to Marshall and will host Norfolk State tonight.
The game against the Lancers will be the first of four in seven days for the Razorbacks. Arkansas hosts Florida A&M on Monday before playing two games next weekend in Las Vegas against Arizona State and either Wisconsin or Creighton.