Back To The Bud

Hunter Mickelson

Arkansas (11-6, 2-2) looks to get back over .500 in league play when it faces short-handed Mississippi State (7-9, 2-2) in an 8 p.m. match-up tonight at Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson certainly knows what his Wednesday counterpart is going through.

  A year after Anderson had nights when he had just eight healthy scholarship bodies, Mississippi State first-year head coach Rick Ray has just eight of his own – healthy or not.

Anderson also had that situation while head coach at Missouri.

  "And one point at Missouri we had to have coach T.J.  Cleveland dress out," Anderson said. "I am sure it's been an unusual situation for Rick coming in, a tough situation. You have to have your guys prepared as best you can but you can't burn them out because they are so limited from that standpoint."

  Arkansas (11-6, 2-2) hosts Mississippi State (7-9. 2-2) in an 8 p.m. game Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena.

  Anderson reached out to Ray last season after he was hired by the Bulldogs.

  "It just feels good about the fact that there is good people in this profession," Ray said.  "We are in the same conference, we are going to play each other, we are going to be rivals and there are going to be recruiting wars.

"For Mike Anderson to be that good of a person to reach out and say 'hey if you ever need anything, I know it's your first head coaching position, I've been through it if you want to talk about things,'" Anderson added. "…Just knowing that there are good people in this profession makes you feel good. We keep in contact, but you can't share a lot of information."

  Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin did the same after their two teams played.

  "After the game he said 'your guys are really playing hard and trying to do the things that you want them to do. Once you get more bodies it will really make a difference,'" Ray shared.

  The Razorbacks are coming off a 76-64 loss to Ole Miss.

  "It's a big week for us coming off a tough loss at  Ole Miss," Anderson said. "We are trying to find some consistency shooting the ball better and getting the tempo more up to how we want to play.  Defensively we are doing some good things but we need to score points.  We haven't been scoring as many points as I would like to and would like our bench to become more engaged and involved in what we are doing."

  The Bulldogs started the SEC slate with wins over South Carolina and at Georgia, but have since lost two straight with a 75-43 home loss to Alabama and a 72-57 road loss at Tennessee.

  They are led by 6-3 junior guard Jalen Steele (11.1), 6-3 freshman guard Craig Sword (9.6), 6-9, 270-pound freshman center Gavin Ware (8.0, 7.1), 6-8 junior forward Colin Borchert (6.8, 4.7) and 6-0 sophomore Trivantee Bloodman (5.9).

  The bench consists of 6-7, 210-pound sophomore forward Roquez Johnson (10.8, 4.9) and 6-5 freshman Fred Thomas (10.3).

Ware is the only inside threat, but has been limited to just 16 points in his last  four games covering 95 minutes of action.

  "I think it's two-fold," Ray said. "He's struggling somewhat but I think also there's  a concentration from the opposing team of not letting him score, when he's your only inside threat. And he's been playing well. I think there's a concerted effort by the opposing team to try to take that away from you, and that's what good scouts and good coaches do."

  Arkansas is led in scoring by 6-3 sophomore guard B.J. Young (17.2) and 6-7 junior forward Marshawn Powell (15.2, 5.8).

  "I think Young is a guy that is just hard to keep out of the paint," Ray said. "Once again it's not going to be a one-man effort with Young. Our guys have got to move to Young and they've got to move to Powell, whether Powell is in the post or on the perimeter. Because I think he's a problem.

"We've got to keep Young out of the paint, and he is the type of guy that he tries to drive one way and you cut him off he'll cross over or spin or something like that and probe the defense the other way," Ray added. "So you've got to be constantly be moving to him, and make sure you don't allow him to get penetration."

  "And then Powell is a skilled four, where he can score in the post and he can score off the post; he can catch and shoot," Ray continued. "So we've got to do some things when he catches the ball off the block to try to move to him and not give him gaps to try to score."

  Borchert is a player that Arkansas had some interest in and scouted last season at the National Junior College Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas.

  He has played well this season, but was 0-of-7 at Tennessee on Saturday and just 2-of-14 from the field the past two games.

  "The biggest factor with Colin is the fact he knows what's going on on the court," Ray said. " He has a wealth of knowledge about basketball. He has a good feel for the game of basketball. He can do other things besides just shoot the basketball.

  "And that's what I mean by a skilled forward," Ray added. "A skilled forward is not just all because a guy can shoot. It's because he can dribble, he can pass, he can score from in the post, he can score from outside the post. He can do a lot of different things in your motion offense. He's a good basketball player, but it's going to help us if he starts making those threes, because it stretches the defense."

  Arkansas also has a skilled forward in 6-10, 240-pound Hunter Mickelson, who rebounded from a subpar effort against Auburn to have 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks against Ole Miss' rugged front line.

I think we saw him really step up, and after being challenged coming from the auburn game, " Anderson said. "I thought he stepped up and gave us some points in the paint."

Mickelson (7.2, 4.5) said he knew he had to respond.

"I knew I had to play harder and just help out the team more and I was able to do that against Ole Miss," Mickelson said.

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