A lot of smiling faces were leaving Bud Walton Arena on Sunday afternoon. The White team used some hot first half shooting from Anthlon Bell (19 points) to drop the Red team 112-102. A good time was had by all.
While there wasn’t as much defense as you would normally see from a Mike Anderson squad, that wasn’t the focus, as the Hogs were intent on putting on a show for the estimated 3,500 fans in the stands.
There are a few things that stood out to us. Simply put, despite the loss of Marshawn Powell and B.J. Young, the Hogs are improved across the board from a year ago. Whether that translates to a trip to the NCAA Tournament or not, we’re not ready to go there yet.
Mike Anderson told us at the Razorbacks Media Days event last week that forwards Michael Qualls (20 points), Jacorey Williams (21 points on 9-for-11 shooting) and Alandise Harris (26 points, 9 rebounds) were all improved. He wasn’t kidding.
Qualls and Williams are starting to become more complete players, and have improved their mid-range shooting. Harris is tough to defend with his ‘inside-outside’ approach. He was hard for our other bigs to handle when he would make a move to the basket.
Freshmen Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley make a good tandem. Portis (18 points) is the most skilled big man the Hogs have had in 20 years, and showed some polished spin moves Sunday on the block and in the paint. Kingsley (6 points, 8 rebounds) is very active and is quick off the floor. He will contribute right away on defense and with his rebounding.
On the perimeter, Bell was scoring from behind the arc at will in the first half (4-5 3FGs) and finished with five 3-pointers for the game. His stroke is pure, and he looked improved on the defensive end as well. Junior guard Fred Gulley was the real surprise as he also hit five 3-point field goals en route to 24 points for the Red team. Don’t think he can do that every night, but it was good to see him be able to knock down open shots.
That is truly going to be the key for this team – Can the Hogs find enough perimeter shooting night in and night out to have a balanced offensive attack? If they can, they could surprise a lot of people. If they can’t, it will look a lot like last season.
Senior guards Rickey Scott and Mardracus Wade looked about the same. Neither can score much if they can’t get all the way to the basket. On the other hand, junior guard Rashad Ky Madden filled up the stat sheet (24 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists), and looks ready to take a step forward and be one of the leaders.
The Hogs get a chance Friday night at 7pm to play one of their two exhibition games – the first one against Missouri Southern. We’ll see what they look like then, but for now, we are pleasantly surprised.