Pressure cooker: New Hogs headed for rowdy Verizon in contest against Texas-San Antonio

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, December 15, 2018
An Arkansas player stands in front of a Razorback flag during pregame introductions on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, in North Little Rock.
An Arkansas player stands in front of a Razorback flag during pregame introductions on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, in North Little Rock.

The University of Arkansas basketball team will look to bounce back from its first home loss of the season when the Razorbacks (6-2) play Texas-San Antonio (3-6) tonight at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

Western Kentucky beat Arkansas 78-77 at Walton Arena in Fayetteville last Saturday to end the Razorbacks' six-game winning streak.

Arkansas men vs Texas-San Antonio

WHEN 7 p.m. today

WHERE Verizon Arena, North Little Rock

RECORDS Arkansas 6-2. UTSA 3-6.

SERIES Arkansas leads 5-0

RADIO Razorback Sports Network





G Keaton Wallace, 6-3;So.;19.6;4.3

G Jhivvan Jackson, 6-0;So.;16.8;1.4

G Giovanni De Nicholao 6-3;Jr.;7.8;4.4

F Dylan Frohnen, 6-6;Jr.;8.6;8.0

F Nick Allen, 6-0;Sr.;8.6;5.1

COACH Steve Henson (37-40 in three seasons at UTSA)



G Jalen Harris, 6-2; So.;9.1;3.3

G Isaiah Joe, 6-5, Fr.;16.4;2.6

G Mason Jones, 6-5;So.;14.4;5.5

F Daniel Gafford;6-11;So,;18.5;8.8

F Adrio Bailey, 6-6;Jr.;9.5;4.5

COACH Mike Anderson (157-88 in eight seasons at Arkansas, 357-186 in 17 seasons overall)



74.7;Points for;86.1

77.8;Points against;71.5

-0.9;Rebound margin;+0.9

-0.8;Turnover margin;+4.1

41.1;FG pct.;47.8

31.1;3-pt. pct.;36.1

74.4;FT pct.;62.7

CHALK TALK Arkansas sophomore point guard Jalen Harris is averaging an SEC-leading 7.3 assists … Razorbacks freshman guard Isaiah Joe is averaging 4.1 three-point baskets per game to rank fifth nationally … Arkansas sophomore forward Daniel Gafford has hit 19 of 26 free throws the previous four games to raise his shooting to 60.4 percent (32 of 53) on the season … Gafford’s 66.7 percent shooting from the field leads the SEC … Arkansas is 10-9 in Verizon Arena and has won its last two games there, 80-56 over Sam Houston State two seasons ago and 88-63 over Troy last season. … The Razorbacks are 5-2 under Coach Mike Anderson in Verizon Arena with the losses to Houston 87-78 and Mercer 69-66 in overtime … Arkansas and UTSA last played on Jan. 4, 2014, when the Razorbacks beat the Roadrunners 104-71 in Fayetteville. Bobby Portis led Arkansas with 19 points and hit 8 of 9 shots … Razorbacks freshman guard Desi Sills is averaging 8.5 points off the bench the last two games … UTSA sophomore guard Keaton Wallace scored a career-high 35 points and hit 9 of 13 three-pointers in the Roadrunners’ 104-74 victory over Mid-American Christian — an NAIA school — last Saturday … UTSA’s Steve Henson was the Conference USA coach of the year last season.

— Bob Holt

The Razorbacks had a week to stew about that loss, as Coach Mike Anderson put it, because no games were scheduled while Arkansas students took final exams.

"The main thing we're trying to do is get that taste out of our mouths," Arkansas sophomore forward Daniel Gafford said of the WKU game. "It was a tough loss.

"We've just been maintaining, trying to focus on getting better each and every day. We've had finals and we've had practice, so just trying to balance both of them out, but it's still a work in progress."

Anderson said this week -- capped by tonight's game -- has been filled with firsts for a team with nine newcomers.

The new Razorbacks have been dealing with their first home loss, first finals week at the UA and now will play for the first time at Verizon Arena.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how our guys respond to a little adversity," Anderson said.

Anderson said he's looking forward to the Razorbacks' annual game in Central Arkansas.

"It's a different venue and it's an exciting venue, because you're going to have people who don't get a chance to come up to Bud Walton Arena and watch us play," Anderson said. "Some of the guys will be playing in front of their families and friends."

Anderson, in his eighth season as the Razorbacks' head coach, said he's always enjoyed playing in Central Arkansas, going back to his days as an assistant for Nolan Richardson.

"When we talk about our team being the professional team here, we are the show," Anderson said. "I think it's great for our kids. I think it's great for our state.

"To me, the people down there, they're so receptive. The hospitality is unbelievable."

Gafford said his hometown of El Dorado will be well represented at the game.

"It means a lot to me," Gafford said. "Basically half of El Dorado is going be there."

An announced crowd of 16,416 filled Verizon Arena last season when the Razorbacks beat Troy 88-63.

"The atmosphere was crazy last year," Gafford said. "Once the first person walked in, the energy just went up in the building. It never stopped. It was just like it blew the roof off the building.

"As soon as we tipped off, you could feel it and feed off that energy. It was like everyone in there was ready to watch Razorback basketball."

Tonight will be the first time UTSA Coach Steven Henson has brought his team into Verizon Arena.

"We anticipate it being pretty loud and pretty rowdy," Henson said. "Anytime somebody with a good fan base like Arkansas plays in a city [off campus] on an annual basis, they're creating a great opportunity for their fans in a different part of the state.

"I know with the way Arkansas plays, they're going to want to get their crowd into it. I like their system. I've always respected Coach Anderson and the way he does things."

The Roadrunners also have had a week between games -- since beating Mid-American Christian 104-74 last Saturday -- because of finals.

Sophomore guards Keaton Wallace (19.6 points per game) and Jhivvan Jackson (16.8) are UTSA's leading scorers.

"We're not playing great, but we're getting closer to where we need to be," Henson said. "We had a good week of practice, played an NAIA school and played well, then had another good week of practice. So we'll see what we can do."

Since starting 0-5 -- including losses to Oklahoma 87-67 and at Oklahoma State 82-60 -- UTSA has won three of four. The Roadrunners have beaten Florida Gulf Coast 76-65 and Houston Baptist 86-82 in addition to Mid-American Christian.

"They've played a good schedule," Anderson said. "They're going to be a team coming in with nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Gafford said the Razorbacks can't afford to overlook UTSA.

"We've got to come out and play our best," Gafford said. "We can't go out and say, 'Oh, a team is 3-6' and just play on their level.

"We've got to play beyond their level. We've got to go to another level that we haven't been to before. If we play at their level, it might turn into another loss like Western Kentucky did."

After opening with a 74-71 overtime loss to Texas at Fort Bliss in San Antonio, Texas, the Razorbacks won their next six games by an average of 20 points. Excluding a 73-72 victory over Indiana, the Razorbacks' closest game in the winning streak was an 18-point victory over Texas-Arlington. They went into the WKU game off a 98-74 victory at Colorado State.

"We've got to be consistent," Anderson said. "Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you is you have success and you get that pat on the back.

"I thought we got caught up in that. So we've used this time to kind of ground them and get back to doing the things we were doing early that put us in a position to have a six-game winning streak and play really good basketball."

Henson said he's been impressed watching the Razorbacks on tape.

"From a personnel standpoint I really like their guys," Henson said. "They have good depth. That's not surprising.

"Mike Anderson is always going to have that. He keeps bringing guys in to keep the pressure on you and make you uncomfortable."

Sports on 12/15/2018


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