HOG CALLS:

After Portland's triumphs, Hogs humbled in Houston

By: Nate Allen
Published: Monday, December 4, 2017
Houston's Rob Gray (32) brings the ball down the court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 in Houston. (Wilf Thorne/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Photo by Associated Press
Houston's Rob Gray (32) brings the ball down the court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 in Houston. (Wilf Thorne/Houston Chronicle via AP)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Averaging 23.6 points per game, Houston Cougars guard Rob Gray's offensive prowess captured the most pregame attention before the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, played Saturday night in Houston.

Though giving Gray all due respect, Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said Gray's offense did not foremost command his focus entering Saturday's game.

"Coach Kelvin Sampson's teams are known for their defensive tenaciousness, rebounding and physicality," Anderson said before mentioning Gray during Thursday's news conference in Fayetteville before the game in Houston.

Too bad the Razorbacks didn't focus on what their coach foresaw.

Perhaps the Razorbacks were lulled into a false sense of security after defeating much the same cast of Cougars 84-72 last season at Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Or maybe the Razorbacks sauntered into Houston off the previous week's high-profile Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Ore., during which they beat Oklahoma, lost to reigning national champion North Carolina and with shocking ease annihilated the UConn Huskies 102-67. One way or another, on Saturday the Razorbacks never knew what hit them. Houston's defense suffocated and bullied Arkansas while Arkansas' defense disappeared.

Opening the game with an 11-0 run commencing a 91-65 rout, the Cougars annihilated Arkansas as easily as Arkansas had crushed UConn.

"Kelvin had them ready and amped up, and we just could not get off to a good start," Anderson said. "Our first play of the game we turned it over, and I think it took us three possessions before we even got a shot off to the basket. It just seemed like we were not in sync. Our first true road game, and we couldn't pass the test."

Anderson had warned his Hogs to stay humble after clobbering Connecticut.

Houston humbling them presumably strikes home as the Razorbacks return to Walton Arena to host Colorado State on Tuesday night and Minnesota on Saturday night.

"I think they got a little pat on the back," Anderson said of the Razorbacks' Portland experience. "And I think they left it in Fayetteville. But we'll find it and learn from it. That's a hard lesson to learn sometimes. Our guys have got to understand that and match that energy level the other team is playing with."

The Cougars came in so determined that Gray, scoring 22 at Walton last year, only needed to score 11 in Houston for the Cougars to win by 26.

Houston forward Devin Davis, injured during last season's Arkansas game, scored 28 points with 10 rebounds Saturday.

Except for the final 3:30 of the North Carolina game, Arkansas defended well and shot well in Portland.

Nothing fed nothing for Arkansas in Houston even when it seemed it might.

"We missed layups," Anderson said. "The telltale of our team is when we had just seven assists and shot 55 times. That tells you we didn't have the ball movement and the people movement."

The Razorbacks did get moving against UConn after North Carolina beat them. Anderson challenges them to do the same Tuesday against a Colorado State team that Saturday defeated previously undefeated in-state archival Colorado.

Sports on 12/04/2017

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