Anderson wants defensive impressions

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, October 26, 2018
Arkansas center Daniel Gafford guards forward Adrio Bailey during the Red-White exhibition game on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas center Daniel Gafford guards forward Adrio Bailey during the Red-White exhibition game on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- After University of Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson watched his players score a combined 187 points in the team's Red-White intrasquad game a week ago, he'll be looking for some defense tonight when the Razorbacks face Tusculum in an exhibition game at Walton Arena.

"That's how your earn your minutes," Anderson said. "I'm a defensive-minded guy, so if you want to impress me, impress me with your defense.

ARKANSAS MEN’S BASKETBALL EXHIBITION GAME VS TUSCULUM

WHEN 7 tonight

WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville

TICKETS $15 lower level available

2017-18 RECORDS Arkansas 23-12; Tusculum 6-21

WORTH NOTING Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson is 32-0 in exhibiton games at Alabama-Birmingham, Missouri and Arkansas.

"I've seen the offense. It can come and go. A guy may have 30 points one night and may have two the next night.

"I just think defense is the constant. It's got to be there night in and night out."

There are lots of minutes to be earned on an Arkansas team with nine newcomers.

The only returning scholarship players are junior forward Adrio Bailey, sophomore preseason All-SEC forward Daniel Gafford and sophomore forward Gabe Osabuohien.

Anderson said the defense has been "spotty" so far in practice.

"With so many new pieces, its like if you're an offensive team, you're trying to find that weak link," he said. "If you make four or five passes, obviously there are times you can find that.

"If something breaks down, who are the guys that are going to be in the trenches to fix things on defense? To rotate?"

Anderson said at times the Razorbacks have been where they need to be on defense in practice and at times they've been a half-second slow.

"We're longer, we're athletic," he said. "Now do we put all that into use and become a really cohesive defensive unit? I'm anxious to see myself."

The 6-11 Gafford will be a rim protector this season as he was as a freshman when he had 76 blocked shots.

Among the players on the perimeter who can help extend the defense are the 6-6 Bailey, 6-8 Osabuohien, 6-5 Mason Jones, 6-5 Isaiah Joe, 6-3 Keyshawn Embery-Simpson and 6-7 Jordan Philips, who won't play tonight as he continues to recover from a knee injury.

Jalen Harris and Desi Sills, both 6-2, are strong on-the-ball defenders and 6-8 Reggie Chaney, 6-8 Ethan Henderson and 6-10 Ibby Ali will help on the inside.

"There's a lot of questions," Anderson said of the most inexperienced team he's had in 17 seasons as a head coach. "Now we get some of the answers. Especially in a public setting, where you've got officials, you've got fans. You've got somebody that wants to beat the Razorbacks."

Tusculum, an NCAA Division II school in Greeneville, Tenn., returns two starters from last season's 6-21 team and has a new coach in J.T. Burton, who was former Razorback Jaylen Barford's junior college coach at Motlow (Tenn.) State. The Pioneers' top returning player is 6-1 senior guard Donovan Donaldson, who averaged 14.1 points and 4.6 assists last season.

"People may say it's an exhibition, but I want to see if we can have effective minutes," Anderson said. "I've always been a proponent of that. It's not necessarily how many minutes you get, but what you do with those minutes."

Anderson -- 32-0 in exhibition games at Alabama-Birmingham, Missouri and Arkansas -- said he won't decide on a starting lineup until shortly before tonight's game.

It's possible he might start different lineups to open each half, Anderson said, but he plans to look at various combinations of the young players working with the older ones rather than make wholesale substitutions.

"I think they're probably tired of playing each other," Anderson said. "Sometimes you get to the point where you've been going against each other for so long it's time to play somebody else.

"We're going to try to play everybody. [The newcomers] have got to get some experience. It's something you can't teach, and the way you get experience is you've got to play."

Arkansas plays its second exhibition game against Southwest Baptist on Nov. 2, then opens the regular season against Texas on Nov. 9 at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

"It's hard to believe that after [tonight's game] you're two weeks away from opening up," Anderson said. "That has our guys excited, but more importantly for me and my coaching staff it's an opportunity to see where we are."

Anderson said he hasn't been running practices differently with the Razorbacks opening away from home against a marquee opponent.

"I don't change what we do," he said. "I think for the most part we're just trying to see the guys that are going to be ready to play.

"In my mind, I'm trying to see who are going to be those core guys early on."

Sports on 10/26/2018

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