Gophers to serve as gauge for Hogs

NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF @NWABENGOFF Daryl Macon (4) of Arkansas drives past Erick Neal of UT Arlington on Friday Nov. 18, 2016 during the game in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Arkansas' basketball team will get its first road test of the season in Minneapolis tonight.

The Razorbacks (3-0) play Minnesota (4-0) at 7 p.m. in Williams Arena.

"A great test for us at this stage with this basketball team," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how our guys go and play in an environment that isn't in the confines of Bud Walton Arena.

"This was put on our schedule specifically to find out where we are and what we've got to do."

Minnesota Coach Richard Pitino has added impact newcomers -- including 6-9 freshman forward Eric Curry from Little Rock Southwest Christian Academy -- to bolster his roster after the Golden Gophers went 8-23 last season.

Curry, who visited Arkansas before committing to Minnesota, is averaging 7.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in 23.0 minutes off the bench.

"I think he's given them an active forward, an energy guy that really can block shots, rebound and run the floor," Anderson said. "He's a good player."

Amir Coffey, a 6-8 freshman guard, is averaging a team-high 15.8 points. He scored 30 points in the Gophers' 92-86 victory over St. John's last Friday, when he hit 9 of 14 shots and 11 of 12 free throws.

"We got a chance to see him in the recruiting process in high school," Anderson said. "Just a high motor lefty and gets to the basket. He can post up and he's long and lanky.

"It's pretty good for a freshman to do what he's doing right now."

The Gophers also added transfers Reggie Lynch and Akeem Springs.

Lynch, a 6-10 junior center from Illinois State, is averaging 9.0 points and 7.5 rebounds. Springs, a 6-4 senior guard from Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is averaging 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds.

"As Richard has brought his own players, you're seeing that this team mirrors him," Anderson said. "Defensively they're solid. Offensively they do a lot of attacking off the dribble. Their guard play is very, very instrumental in what's taking place right now.

"It's a team that's finding its identity as well."

The Razorbacks also are counting on newcomers -- notably junior-college transfer guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon -- but Anderson said senior center Moses Kingsley, senior guards Dusty Hannahs and Manny Watkins and junior guard Anton Beard need to lead the team in its first road game.

"I think we've got enough guys that have been through playing on the road," Anderson said. "Hopefully they can relate it to our guys and make them understand what it takes to go on the road.

"The most important thing is, you've got to remember you're all you've got. So you've got to make sure you're really pushing one another, you're rooting for one another and we're all on the same page."

Kingsley, the preseason SEC player of the year, is averaging 9.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 blocked shots. He's hit 10 of 24 shots and Anderson said he needs to be more aggressive on offense.

"Moses has got to step it up," Anderson said. "There's too much thinking going on. He's got to go ahead and play basketball."

Arkansas rallied from a 17-point deficit in the first half to beat Texas-Arlington 71-67 last Friday night. Minnesota beat Texas-Arlington 84-67 last Monday night after trailing 41-35 at halftime.

"I think it just shows, we got a long way to go obviously, but this is not last year's team," Pitino said after the game. "'It's very evident. It's a totally different team with much more balance and depth."

Arkansas has beaten two preseason conference favorites -- Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (Summit League) and Texas-Arlington (Sun Belt) -- but Minnesota is the Razorbacks' first opponent from another Power Five conference.

"They know Minnesota is in the Big Ten," Anderson said of his players. "They know it's an opportunity to go into someone's home and hopefully have a chance to steal a game.

"They're feeling pretty good right now about themselves because we've won games. But as I told them, this is going to be a different type of test to see if they're prepared in the right way."

Sports on 11/22/2016