I’m sitting in the 5th row, almost center court at Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday evening, and it’s only 30 seconds into the game when I realize, the Fastest 40 Minutes in basketball is back.
From the opening tip, the Arkansas Razorbacks hustled, harassed and contained a Wake Forest team that looked baffled in front of a solid crowd in Fayetteville. Often I stared straight across at Demon Deacons head coach Danny Manning, who’s in his first year as coach and one of college basketball’s greatest players. The look on Manning’s face was astounding; the look of surprise, aggravation and hopelessness as the Hogs full court pressed.
Arkansas made its first basket only seconds into the contest and instantly pressured the inbound pass. Although the Hogs started slowly from the field, it certainly didn’t stop the pressure they brought. Steal after steal led to alley-oop dunks from Michael Qualls and Jacorey Williams. The crowd was electric and loud, reminiscent of the National Championship days in the mid-90s.
Nov 19, 2014; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Michael Qualls (24) dunks the ball in against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the first half at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Anderson is now two games into his fourth year as head coach at Arkansas, and it looks to be paying dividends as he now has all the players he has recruited himself. The Hogs pushed Wake Forest to their boiling point Wednesday night with tough defense. Demon Deacon players were frustrated, shocked and tired as they missed outside shots and turned the ball over. Wake would go onto to shoot only 1 of 18 from 3-point range, while Arkansas landed 7 of 15. Wake also committed 20 turnovers as the Razorbacks collected 13 steals.
Although Wake Forest is in a rebuilding year, Coach Anderson has to be pleased with the relentless defense he’s been wanting to see for 3+ years now. The most impressive thing about Arkansas’ 83-53 victory was the aggressiveness and determination the newcomers showed.
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Anton Beard, Jabril Durham, and Nick Babb all impressed in their 2nd games with the team. What else can you say about the walk-on Manual Watkins? He’s come out of nowhere in the eyes of Razorback Nation and gathered a lot of playing time so far. Watkins is not the prototypical scorer, but he’s a bully on defense and reminds me of a San Antonio Spur-like mentality on the floor.
The Razorbacks also shared the ball very well in game number two. The Hogs dished out 18 assists and six different players scored in double figures. Bobby Portis, Alandise Harris, Jacorey Williams, Anton Beard, and Moses Kingsley all finished with 10 points and senior Rashad Madden led the way with 11. Jabril Durham also added 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists off the bench.
Arkansas welcomes Delaware State to Bud Walton Arena on Friday evening at 7pm central standard time as the Razorbacks look to become 3-0 on the season. The Hornets sit at 2-1 on the season, but were handed a 7 point loss at North Texas last time out.