Hogs don't expect to ease into season

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, November 9, 2017
Samford coach Scott Padgett shouts during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Cincinnati, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Samford coach Scott Padgett shouts during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Cincinnati, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks have won 43 consecutive home openers in men's basketball.

Winning No. 44 doesn't figure to be a gimme.

The Razorbacks open against Samford at 7 p.m. Friday in Walton Arena.

The Bulldogs return five starters from a team that finished 20-16 last season and have added 5-10 junior guard Justin Coleman, a transfer from Alabama who redshirted last year.

Senior guard Demetrius Denzel-Dyson, a 6-5 transfer from Massachusetts who averaged 16.1 points last season, and 6-9 junior center Wyatt Walker, who averaged 12.9 points and 9.7 rebounds, were voted to the preseason All-Southern Conference team.

Forward Alex Thompson, a 6-8 senior who transferred from Auburn, averaged 11.7 points for Samford last season. Christen Cunningham, a 6-2 senior point guard, averaged 11.4 points and 6.3 assists.

"It's for keeps now," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. "So we start right off the bat playing against an excellent team in Samford."

Coleman scored 22 points in his lone game in Walton Arena with Alabama as a freshman when he hit 5 of 7 three-point baskets and 7 of 8 free throws off the bench in the Razorbacks' 93-91 overtime victory Jan. 22, 2015.

Coleman is from Birmingham, Ala., which also is Anderson's hometown and where Samford is located. He averaged 7.8 points as a sophomore at Alabama two years ago.

"We recruited him," Anderson said. "He's a quick, smart player. He's like a coach out on the floor. He can create for others and he can shoot the basketball, as well.

"He loves big moments and he loves big stages, as he showed. He gives them a guy that's played at this level, that's played in this building. He can be that leader, that coach on the floor for them."

Samford is playing in Walton Arena for the first time, but Bulldogs Coach Scott Padgett is familiar with the building. He played at Kentucky and was a senior during the 1998-1999 season the Razorbacks beat the No. 6 Wildcats 74-70.

Padgett, a first-round draft choice by the Utah Jazz who played eight seasons in the NBA, has a 47-54 record at Samford going into his fourth season.

The Bulldogs beat Spring Hill College -- an NCAA Division II school in Mobile, Ala. -- 95-60 and lost 78-64 at Western Kentucky in two exhibition games.

In the two games, Samford hit 21 of 61 three-point baskets.

"It's a team that can really shoot the basketball," Anderson said. "And if you look at some of the stats from the exhibitions, we didn't do a very good job of guarding guys on the perimeter."

Central Oklahoma and Missouri Western combined to hit 23 of 50 three-pointers against the Razorbacks in exhibition games.

"Of course, that's going be our main objective, to run guys off the three-point line and keep them off the glass as well," Anderson said. "We have to mix it up. I think we have to keep them guessing.

"They're wanting to spread the floor, and you have to be able to make the adjustment. We have to make the adjustment and make it a lot sooner than we did [in the exhibitions]."

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville will dress out nine scholarship players Friday night with Khalil Garland not medically cleared to play, and Dustin Thomas and Arlando Cook suspended.

Senior guards Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford and Anton Beard all played 32 or more minutes in each exhibition game as the Razorbacks beat Central Oklahoma 78-66 and Missouri Western 88-74. Senior forward Trey Thompson played 31 and 25 minutes, sophomore guard C.J. Jones played 22 and 23, and freshman forward Daniel Gafford played 15 and 26.

"In the exhibition games our guys played a lot of minutes, and they'll probably play a lot of minutes in the regular season as well," Anderson said. "But I think we're really looking forward to putting different combinations out on the floor that's going to make things difficult for Samford."

Anderson said he can tell the Razorbacks are eager to open the season.

"I think our guys are ready to play somebody," he said. "They're tired of beating up on each other. They're tired of hearing me getting on them about certain things.

"It gets kind of monotonous and starts getting physical and real testy. We had a practice on Monday, and it was probably one of our most physical.

"I'm talking about guys were just kind of going at each other. I was just happy to get out of that practice with nobody going down."

Sports on 11/09/2017

ARKANSAS VS SAMFORD

WHEN 7 p.m. Friday

WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville

SERIES Arkansas leads 2-0.

LAST SEASON’S RECORDS Arkansas 26-10, Samford 20-16

COACHES Mike Anderson (128-74 going into seventh season at Arkansas, 328-172 overall going into 17th season). Scott Padgett (47-54 going into fourth season at Samford and overall).

TELEVISION None

INTERNET SEC Network-plus

RADIO Razorback Sports Network

TICKETS $25 lower level, $15 upper level.

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