Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Razorbacks headed in right direction
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson celebrates at the end of the second overtime an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn in Fayetteville, Ark., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Arkansas defeated Auburn 88-80. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson pressed his big men to stand up to Ole Miss’ big men last Saturday in Oxford, Miss.
Tonight, against Mississippi State in Fayetteville, Anderson will press his big men to stand above the Bulldogs’ big men and foul them out.
Mississippi State doesn’t have veteran big men like Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner, the Ole Miss seniors who have dominated Arkansas for years and defeated the Razorbacks again last Saturday, although this time not without a fight.
Even though Holloway had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Buckner added 10 points and 10 rebounds and 4 blocked shots, Arkansas forwards Marshawn Powell, Hunter Mickelson, Coty Clarke and Jacorey Williams gave about as good as they got.
Starters Powell (16 points) and Mickelson (10 points) outscored Holloway and Buckner, 26-25. Powell also had 4 rebounds, 1 steal and blocked 4 shots, while Mickelson grabbed 8 rebounds, blocked 3 shots and had 2 assists.
Arkansas (11-6, 2-2 SEC) vs. Mississippi State (7-9, 2-2)
WHERE: Bud Walton Arena
WHEN: 8:05 p.m.
Clarke came off the bench and contributed five rebounds, and Williams scored four points in six minutes.
If Arkansas’ forwards post numbers like against Mississippi State (7-9, 2-2 SEC) at Walton Arena, it should add up to a victory.
Coach Rick Ray’s injury depleted roster has only three forwards: 6-9, 280-pound freshman Gavin Moore, 6-8 junior-college transfer Colin Borchert and slender 6-7, 210-pound sophomore Roquez Johnson.
That can be a recipe for foul play, Ray said.
“Our post guys continually get inearly foul trouble, which puts us in a bind because we only have eight players as it is,” said Ray, who is in his first season as the Bulldogs’ coach. “When we get two of our post players in early foul trouble, we end up playing really small and that just kills us as far as rebounding and the offensive rebounds.”
Mickelson would pose no threat if he performed like he did when he was benched during last week’s double overtime victory against Auburn, but the 6-10 sophomore could create havoc inside tonight if he plays like he did against Ole Miss.
“Being a post guy, that’s where Ineed to do my work at,” Mickelson said. “We have heard they got new big guys inside kind of getting in foul trouble sometimes. We’ll try to use that to our advantage and see if we can go out and get it done.
Anderson met with Mickelson after Mickelson struggled against Auburn.
“I knew I had to play harder and better and just help out the team more, and I was able to do that against Ole Miss,” Mickelson said.
Powell, Arkansas’ leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, has played consistently well for the most part but still winces from fouling out scoreless in the 69-51 loss at Texas A&M, when A&M outrebounded Arkansas 51-27.
So for these Hogs (11-6, 2-2), their second SEC loss seems something to build upon and their first something to forget.
“The feeling on the plane ride back from Ole Miss was a lot better than that Texas A&M plane ride back,” Powell said. “It just shows you the direction that we are headed and the direction that hopefully we can get to.”
Sports, Pages 14 on 01/23/2013