By LARRY VAUGHT
Depth was expected to be one reason Kentucky could win the Southeastern Conference and wear down opponents. However, host Arkansas hopes its depth will be the key to beat the Wildcats Tuesday night.
“We have a lot of guys playing at a high level,” said Arkansas coach Mike Anderson even though his team opened Southeastern Conference play with a loss at Texas A&M and then got beat at home in overtime by Florida Saturday. “Our strength is our depth. We have quality depth.
“We are an attacking defense. Defensively, we want to create havoc and really make teams work. We are a little better protecting the rim this year. You take some risks when you are trapping, but we have some rim protectors back there this year. Now we have guys that can be a last line of defense.
“And our guys off the bench help pick up our energy level. We just have to continue that defensive pressure and pushing the ball in transition.We want to get to our bench. We feel very confident about our bench.”
Arkansas has no one averaging more than 13 points per game, but yet leads the SEC in scoring at 84 points per game. Four players average in double figures and six more average four or more points per game.
“Our guys have worked hard,” Anderson said. (Freshman forward) Bobby Portis is one of the hardest working kids I have been around. He wants to be a great player and is doing a great job for us. (Junior guard) Rashad Madden has been here and is starting to put things together. You can see his stamp on the team. But a lot of guys are doing a good job.”
Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy says Arkansas is now playing the way Anderson wants but couldn’t when he first took over the job from John Pelphrey.
“It has taken him a couple of years to get the kids he wants to play in that system. They play a lot of guys and turn people over and score in the open floor,” Kennedy said. “And with that great balance, they are not dependent on one guy for all the scoring.”
Anderson believes the home-court edge is overrated against quality teams like Florida and Kentucky, which won at Vanderbilt Saturday.
“If you have good ballplayers, it doesn’t matter where you play at,” Anderson said. “We are in for a great race in the league this year and any night it could be anybody’s night to win. I think you are going to see scores that will shock you.
We are playing a style of basketball that our guys enjoy. They are sharing the basketball and playing with passion. When they get tired, they are trusting teammates to come in and keep it going or take it to the next level.”