FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas basketball team hasn’t played a game in a week because of the school’s final exam schedule.
Now that the Razorbacks are back on the court, Arkansas coach Mike Anderson wants to see them put together a complete game.
Arkansas (7-2), which struggled in the first half of last week’s win against Savannah State, will try to fight off a post-exam hangover when it plays UT Martin (5-8) in Bud Walton Arena at 7 p.m. The Razorbacks should have no trouble extending their home win streak to 21 games, but haven’t forgotten about last week’s struggles.
Arkansas had to endure its worst first half of the season, clinging to a 27-25 lead at the break. The Razorbacks erupted after halftime to roll to a 72-43 win, but guard Fred Gulley said Arkansas intends to avoid more early woes tonight.
"We’ve just got to come out and play like we’re capable of playing," Gulley said. "Start off the games aggressive and attacking. We don’t need to play to whoever our competition is. We need to look at every jersey like they’re the best team we could possibly go against and that will kind of help us with our sluggish starts."
UT Martin, like Savannah State, is regarded as one of the lowest rated teams in the country entering tonight’s game. The Skyhawks have won three straight, but the victories were against Samford, Northern Kentucky and Presbyterian.
Still, UT Martin will have plenty of motivation against Arkansas — especially its leading scorer. Forward Myles Taylor (15.4 points, 5.9 rebounds a game) is an Arkansas native who played at Little Rock Hall with Arkansas forward Bobby Portis and on the same AAU team as guard Ky Madden.
"He’ll probably be real fired up," Madden said. "It’s probably a spot where he wanted to come and play at. Now to come home and to finally be able to play here, his family is going to be close by so they can come to watch the game."
Anderson said the game probably "means the world to Taylor," but none of that should matter for the Razorbacks. Arkansas, which continued to practice through exam week, has plenty it still must sort out over the next couple of weeks before Southeastern Conference play begins at Texas A&M on Jan. 8.
So each opportunity – no matter the opponent – is vital for the Hogs.
"I’m worried more about what we do," Anderson said. "Not necessarily what other teams do, but what we do, and hopefully that’s continue to get better.
"Get more guys that are playing quality basketball. The bench has been the strength of our basketball team and I think it will continue to be that. But it’s good to see guys really starting to establish themselves."
Madden has been one of the biggest keys since lately, averaging 15 points in the three games since stepping into the starting lineup against Southeastern Louisiana. The guard carried the Razorbacks through their disappointing start against Savannah State, scoring 13 of the team’s 27 points en route to a career-high 21.
Madden believes Arkansas learned from its struggles
"Just come out and be ready to attack off the top and just play like we know how to play," Madden said about the emphasis this week. "If we do that, we should be fine."
Anderson agreed. He said Arkansas was "real flat" against Savannah State, but was proud of the way the Razorbacks responded in the second half. Arkansas held the Tigers to 18 points after the break and its 43 were the fewest allowed this season.
He hopes it will carry over a week against UT Martin tonight.
"I want to see that for 40 minutes," Anderson said. "With this type of team, with the depth that we have, those guys coming off (the bench) can give us some great, great energy and some great minutes. So it’s putting it all together, getting more cylinders clicking. That’s what we’re trying to do right now."