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.
Maui trip educates, motivates
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson gestures while giving instructions to his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against California at the Maui Invitational basketball tournament on Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas men’s basketball team proved it could beat somebody away from home - other than Auburn - when the Razorbacks topped Minnesota 87-73 last week at the Maui Invitational in Hawaii.
The previous two seasons, the Razorbacks were 2-22 in out-of-state games, with both victories coming at Auburn.
“It kind of gets that monkey off our back that we’ve had for a while,” Arkansas senior guard Kikko Haydar said. “We know we can win away from here, and that was a few miles away from here. That was far away. So it brings us confidence.”
Arkansas vs. Southeastern Louisiana
WHEN: 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS: Arkansas 4-2, Southeastern Louisiana 3-3
TV: KATV, channel 7 in Little Rock; KHOG-KHBS, channels 40/29 in Northwest Arkansas; and KAIT, channel 8 in Jonesboro
Arkansas (4-2) lost its other two games in Maui, to California 85-77 and to Gonzaga 91-81. But those losses shouldn’t damage the Razorbacks’ resume, considering California returned four starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament team and the Bulldogs are an NCAA Tournament regular ranked No. 19 in this week’s Associated Press top 25 poll.
Minnesota returned two starters from an NCAA Tournament team last year, though the Gophers have switched coaches with Richard Pitino replacing Tubby Smith.
“The guys had an opportunity to play against some really, really good quality competition, and it exposed some things we have to get better at,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “We learned a lot more about ourselves.
“We’re not as good as we think we are. There’s room for improvement, and it’s early in the year.”
The Razorbacks returned home last Friday and have had a few practices to get over any jet-lag issues to prepare for tonight’s game against Southeastern Louisiana (3-3) at Walton Arena.
“Now we get the chance to get the Hawaii out of us,” Anderson said. “It takes a few days to kind of get that out of your system.”
Haydar and senior forward Coty Clarke said the Razorbacks have gotten enough rest. They got a chance to catch up on their sleep when returning to Fayetteville with no practice scheduled.
“I don’t think it should be a factor at all.,” Haydar said.
Anderson said the games in Maui showed the Razorbacks have to rebound better, play tougher physically and improve their transition defense. Clarke said the Razorbacks also have to be more patient on offense at times.
“Run something and get something good,” Clarke said. “Get fouled, get an and-one and change momentum.”
Haydar said the Maui trip overall was a confidence boost for the Razorbacks.
“I think we learned we’re a good team,” he said. “I think we were exposed on some things and we made mistakes, and that’s what happens when you play other good teams.
“But we took positives out of it. We took that we can compete with anybody in the country.”
Arkansas freshman forwards Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley played well in the final two games in Maui, giving the Razorbacks hope they might be stronger inside than last season.
Portis had 12 points and 7 rebounds against Minnesota and 18 points and 7 rebounds against Gonzaga after being held to 5 points and 1 rebound against California.
Anderson said he talked with Portis before the Minnesota game about playing more aggressively, and Portis responded to the challenge.
“That’s the great thing about a guy like Bobby, and even with this team,” Anderson said. “These guys are like a sponge. They want to be coached. They want to get better.”
Kingsley didn’t play against California, then combined for 16 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in 20 minutes against Minnesota and Gonzaga. He hit 7 of 10 shots and 3 of 4 free throws.
“Moses played with energy, had nice passes, finished, blocked shots, rebounded,” Haydar said. “He did everything that we need him to do.
“That just goes to show you he was ready to play, and Coach put him in and he produced. Going forward, we’re definitely going to need him to continue to do that.”
Sports, Pages 19 on 12/03/2013