Time To Play

Hunter Mickelson

Arkansas coaches and players are anxious to play Saturday night as the practice-weary Razorbacks (8-4) host Delaware State (6-8) in their last non-conference game before the regular routine of SEC action gets underway next week.

Unleash the Razorbacks.

That is what Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson is more than ready to do Saturday at 7 p.m. when the Razorbacks (8-4) host Delaware State (6-8).

It is the third straight Saturday that the Razorbacks will have played a game without any others in between and is the last non-conference contest before the team starts SEC action.

"We're just ready to play somebody other than ourselves and get into a regular routine," Anderson said. "Because now with the 18-game (league) schedule, it's like every Wednesday, Saturday, or Thursday, Saturday or Tuesday, Saturday you've got games. You've got games coming at you. The open weeks that we used to have, you don't have as many of those. Now you get more into the regular routine and you're playing teams that are going to be really, really familiar with you and hopefully you'll be familiar with them."

Arkansas' 79-61 win over Northwestern (LA) State was its fourth straight win in a row after starting the season 4-4 against a tough slate.

"I'm looking for us to improve upon the last outing," Anderson said. "I want our guys to understand that every game is going to be a big game for them. Like with Delaware State coming in here, you can't pay attention to the name. They just went into Marshall and beat Marshall and didn't have all their players. So that tells you they're capable of beating anybody. I think in basketball, with our team, we're good enough to be anybody and anybody is good enough to beat us.

" But that being said, I want us to really sharpen up our game as we get ready for conference play," Anderson added. "I want to finish up the nonconference in a strong, strong manner. That way we can carry, not only some confidence, but a good feeling about how we want to play throughout the rest of the year." Arkansas sophomore center Hunter Mickelson is definitely someone looking to play and not practice.

"We are definitely looking forward to it a lot," Mickelson said. "We have been practicing for so long. It definitely is going to be awesome to get back in a game. You get itching for a game to start back and that's where we are."

Arkansas has gotten better with all of its practice this week – including three days of two workouts each this week – but it has gotten old according to Anderson.

"One thing, it gets monotonous," Anderson said. "Yesterday in particular, I had some officials out there. We talked about trying to clean up the fouling and just trying to change it. We came in and worked on some things in the morning and came back in the afternoon and actually scrimmaged for 20 minutes. And I thought it was very, very competitive."

It was an effort to not have a repeat of giving up 42 free throws as Arkansas did to the Demons while the Razorbacks were going to the line just 13 times.

"Last game, I thought we were too aggressive," Anderson said. "Our hands were working instead of our feet. So now, the last few practices, we've been working on just playing defense with our feet and continue to emphasize rebounding the basketball. Making teams take tough shots. Contesting all shots. And let's create tempo.

Some team managers served as the refs in the aforementioned scrimmage.

"I thought it was better," Anderson said. "I thought guys were cognizant of not fouling. Just cheap fouls. Fouls 94 feet down the floor. If we're picking up man, just making people work. Then of course, we continue to hopefully make people take tough shots and rebound the basketball. So again, it's just paying a little more attention to detail. It's amazing with this team here, whatever you emphasize they try to do the right things. So hopefully there's a carry-over when we get to the game."

Delaware State did indeed beat Marshall 53-51 on Wednesday despite not having three of its starters – 6-4 sophomore guard Tahj Tate (15.7), 5-10 junior point guard A.J. Thomas and 6-10, 240-pound sophomore center Kendall Gray.

Tate and Gray did not play due to coach's decision while Thomas was out with a wrist injury.

The Hornets also have 6-7, 215-pound sophomore forward Tyshawn Bell (8.8) and 6-5 junior guard Casey Walker (8.1) for scoring punch.

"They're going to try to play a slow tempo," Anderson said. "It's going to be a possession by possession with them. It's going to test our patience on defense as well, at times, we're going to have to have a little patience offensively. But we want to create tempo. That is up tempo."

Anderson noted that Rashad Madden's ankle is healthy and he should be able to play.

He hopes to seem the same type effort this Saturday as he did last Saturday from the 6-10, 240-pound Mickelson, who had eight points, a career-high 13 rebounds and four blocks against the Demons.

"I just think having been thrown into fire last year, I think he has a better presence about himself," Anderson said. "The repetition and the competition, no question about it, has made him step it up. He's stepped it up, I think, from the offensivestandpoint… He's got a ways to go. When I say that, I'm talking about now we're talking about being consistent.

"Can you get me 13 rebounds in one game?," Anderson asks. "He blocked four shots. Can you be a guy that's going to protect the paint for us? He can be a mismatch with a lot of people because he can step out and shoot the basketball. He's got a nice hook shot down low. We just want him to improve and develop. But I think the more you see him play with that passion, play with that assertiveness, I think the better he plays."

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