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.
Bell tries to get in tune with Hogs
Arkansas guard Anthlon Bell goes for a lay-up during the second half of a Nov. 1, 2013 exhibition game against Missouri Southern at Bud Walton Arena.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ basketball team returned to practice on Christmas night after being off since a 72-60 victory over South Alabama last Saturday night in North Little Rock.
“You could imagine, it was interesting,” Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said of the first post-Christmas break practice. “A lot can take place in three or four days when you’re used to a routine. True to form, our guys were a little sluggish starting off. The wind kind of got out of them quick early on.”
Anderson is hoping the Razorbacks have their wind back for tonight’s game against High Point (N.C.) University.Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Walton Arena, where Arkansas will look to extend its home winning streak to 22 games.
The Razorbacks (9-2) practiced twice Thursday and once Friday, Anderson said, and were sharper than their Christmas night workout.
“I think it was more getting back into a rhythm of the things that we do and hopefully continue to play at a high level, pushing each other,” Anderson said. “So we’re getting there.”
Arkansas senior guard Rickey Scott, who took an elbow to the face against South Alabama, and sophomore forward Michael Qualls, who was holding his elbow after a dunk, are fine physically, Anderson said, and have been practicing.
“It’s very important for us to continue to go in the right direction,” Anderson said. “I want to see more guys continue playing at a higher level and be consistent in what we’re doing.
“Against South Alabama, I think there were periods we did a lot of good things. I didn’t think we pushed the tempo to where we wanted it. We created some chaos with our defense, but I didn’t think we took advantage of it.”
Arkansas finishes nonconference play tonight and against Texas-San Antonio next Saturday night before opening the SEC schedule at Texas A&M on Jan. 8.
“Let’s see if we can go out and get better in what we do in terms of sharing the basketball and defending and playing with a sense of urgency,” Anderson said. “That’s what I want to see us play for a longer period of time.”
The last two nonconference games will give Razorbacks sophomore guard Anthlon Bell a chance to regain his shooting touch.
“I think for his sake and our team’s sake, that’s going to be big,” Anderson said. “He’s established that he’s a guy that can knock shots down. Now we need to see that start taking place.”
Bell is shooting 25 percent from the field (11 of 44) in the past seven games after shooting 50 percent (20 of 40) in the first four. He is 6 of 32 on three-point attempts over the past seven games after a 12-of-27 start.
Having extra time for practice, Anderson said, is allowing Bell to do more shooting.
“Get some repetitions in and that will be the carryover,” Anderson said. “When he started out the season, I thought he really had put in a lot of time working on different phases of coming off screens, knocking down open shots, putting the ball on the floor for one dribble pull-ups.”
Anderson said Bell also has to do a better job of drawing fouls - he’s 4 of 6 from the line on the season - while continuing to focus on defense.
“The shooting is one thing, but the defense is going to put him out on the floor,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he hasn’t seen any signs of frustration from Bell, who is one of six Razorbacks to take turns leading the team in scoring this season.
“I think the great thing about it, with a team like this here, somebody has always got your back,” Anderson said.
High Point (3-7) has lost five consecutive games. In the Panthers’ last game, they lost 75-54 at Syracuse after High Point took a 40-39 lead with 16:39 remaining. Syracuse then went on a 28-3 run and held the Panthers scoreless for almost 10 minutes.
The Panthers’ other losses have been to Georgetown, North Carolina-Greensboro, Eastern Kentucky, Stephen F. Austin, James Madison and Morgan State. Their victories are over Ferrum (Va.) College, Wofford (S.C.) College and William & Mary.
Redshirt sophomore 6-8 forward John Brown is averaging 18.7 points and 8.1 rebounds for High Point, which had to sit down senior 6-9 forward Allan Chaney - who was averaging 15.4 points and 8.6 rebounds - after five games because of a heart ailment.
“They’re kind of finding themselves after losing him … and so it kind of changed the dynamics of the team,” Anderson said. “I’m sure they’re still trying to get their identity and who they are, but it’s a team that played Syracuse for a half and played them really well.
“They’re capable of beating people.”
UA MEN VS. HIGH POINT (N.C.) WHEN 7 p.m.
WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 9-2, High Point 3-7 SERIES First meeting RADIO Razorback Sports Network TELEVISION Razorback Sports Network on KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock; KFTA, Channel 24, in Fayetteville and KAIT, Channel 8, in Jonesboro.
Sports, Pages 23 on 12/28/2013