Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Freshmen stand out for Hogs
Arkansas' Bobby Portis makes a layup during the second half of the basketball game against UT Martin in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville on Thursday December 19, 2013.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Obviously the competition steps up a lot higher than High Point with the Razorbacks starting Southeastern Conference play next week after Saturday night's nonconference finale at Walton Arena against the 3-8 Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners.
Nevertheless, Arkansas freshman 6-10 centers Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley playing tall in last Saturday's 89-48 rout of the High Point Panthers provides coach Mike Anderson some big optimism about his rookie big men coming into the SEC campaign.
To the minute, Portis and Kingsley split 38 of the game's 40 minutes in the Arkansas middle. For his 19 minutes, Portis, the McDonald's High School All-American out of Little Rock Hall, scored a game-high 16 points shooting 7 of 7 from the 2-point field (he missed two treys) and 2 for 2 from the line, grabbed nine rebounds, dished three of Arkansas' season game-high 22 assists and made three of Arkansas' season-high 17 steals.
Kingsley, the 6-10 Nigerian by way of high school ball in Mississippi then Huntington (W.Va.) Prep and some summer AAU ball in Arkansas, scored 12 points (4 of 7 from the field and 2 of 2 from the line) grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots.
Kingsley ranks seventh on the team in minutes played but leads the team in blocked shots (22).
Anderson marveled about both rookies postgame.
"Can you imagine two of your freshmen in the amount of the minutes they played they both almost had double-doubles?" Anderson said.
Portis' 15 points the previous game led the Hogs in their 72-60 victory over South Alabama on Dec. 21 at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.
"He has been coming on," Anderson said. "You look at the game in Little Rock he was 5 of 5 the first half and I think he led us in rebounding. He keeps getting better each and every game."
So does Kingsley.
"Moses had nine rebounds and 12 points in 19 minutes," Anderson said. "Some guys don't get that in two games. The efficiency is what we are looking for and hopefully guys are understanding that now."
The 10-2 Hogs have won six consecutive games in Arkansas since sandwiching losses to California and Gonzaga between a victory over Minnesota during three tough November games at the Maui Invitational in Hawaii, but Anderson said post Texas-San Antonio it's a different world awaiting with the grind of the SEC starting Jan. 8 at Texas A&M.
Arkansas' women's basketball team, a perfect 13-0 nonconference under seventh-year coach Tom Collen, starts its SEC season with one of its most foreboding challenges, 13th-ranked South Carolina, 12-1, coming to Walton Arena at 7 p.m. Thursday.
"I think we have proven we can score and we have proven we can defend, but we know once we get into the SEC, it's going to be a completely different challenge for us," said Collen after his Razorbacks dismantled Mississippi Valley State 100-54 Saturday afternoon at Walton Arena. "Especially starting off with South Carolina who is traditionally probably been the top defensive team in the nation. So it will be a completely different challenge."
Nonetheless, even with a victory at Kansas and one at home over Middle Tennessee being the only games that would make many women's basketball fans take notice, 13-0 is nothing to sneeze at.
"I don't think you could ask for better than 13-0," Collen said. "I don't think you can ask for a team to shoot the ball better really than we have shot it for the first 13 games. We have really played all facets of the game pretty well. We know the potential is there. I think the big question is can we step up and consistently do it night in and night out against a better level of competition."
Sports on 12/31/2013