FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas – Arkansas finished the exhibition portion of its season Friday night without incident, national-anthem, injury or otherwise. The Razorbacks had no trouble handling Division II Emporia State, 94-44.
With such a large margin, there was plenty to like. But it’s hard to tell, too, given the caliber of opponent what is going to stick when real games start and what’s just a mirage because it’s, well, Emporia State.
Here’s a peek at some of the good and bad of what we’ve seen from the Razorbacks over the last couple weeks as they prepare for the season-opener November 11 against Fort Wayne.
- Moses Kingsley is an excellent rim protector. The funny thing is that’s his biggest knock at the next level. He’s purely an interior player, but NBA folks don’t believe he’s good enough defensively. Kingsley does get in foul trouble and that has to lessen, but he was second in the SEC in blocked shots last year at 2.4 per game. He had six against Emporia State, plus 16 points, including 8 of 8 from the free throw line.
- There is a certain smoothness to Daryl Macon’s game. The junior-college transfer has a 3-point shot, some mid-range game and the ability to get to the rim. He’s not fellow JUCOer Jaylen Barford in that last capacity, but he doesn’t have to be. Throw in the fact he has handles – he ran the point when Barford left the floor Friday – and he’s as complete a guard as Arkansas has on the roster. Macon had a game-high 20 points on 7 of 8 shooting Friday: “Tonight, I started being more aggressive and mainly I just tried to pick it up on defense. I know if my defense is good, my offense is going to be good.”
- Arkansas has to avoid an over-reliance on the 3-pointer. No one has a doubt they can shoot it – I’ve gone on the record as saying I think senior guard Dusty Hannahs is the best shooter in the country – but when it dries up, like it did in the team’s first preseason game (they made one 3), continuing to go back to the well will get them beat.
- Turnovers, man. Arkansas become sloppy during stretches, something they didn’t do often last year as the best team in the SEC in holding on to possession. Nineteen is too many against a DII team, nevermind a DI one. Part of Friday was the competition – Arkansas was so far ahead for most of the game, some carelessness seeped in that probably otherwise wouldn’t normally. Still, want to make sure that’s tightened up.
- Emporia State had absolutely no chance against Arkansas’ press Friday night. At one point, they had 21 turnovers to just 18 points. Ultimately Arkansas forced 30 turnovers and scored 42 oints off them. The question is whether or not that success holds against decent competition.
- Trey Thompson, Brachen Hazen or Arlando Cook, one of them is going to have to step into the role of being a the No. 3 big. Kingsley is a rock, but foul trouble. Dustin Thomas is clearly the second best 4/5 player. But Thompson, Hazen and Cook combined to go 2 of 9 for four points in 43 combined minutes Saturday. They aren’t needed to score a lot, but rebound and defend, at least.
Kingsley and Macon were asked, very first question, about the women’s basketball team’s protest of the national anthem the night before.
“I feel like that’s what they decided to do. It had nothing to do with us. We decided not to,” Kingsley said.
“We all knew the kneeling thing wasn’t us. Never came across our mind. We were just going to keep it like we been doing,” Macon said.
Anderson addressed the possibility of protest further immediately after the players left. He had more words and some specifics. He said he has been talking to his players for at least a month about the social situations in the country.
“As we talked about it, why certain people doing certain things, everyone has that right. But you’ve got to put some thought into it as well,” Anderson said. “I told them, ‘I’m going to stand for the flag.’ I’m an American first.”
So don’t expect to see it with the men’s team this year.
Also, a final note: Freshman guard CJ Jones could miss about two weeks after Jaylen Barford fell on Jones’ knee during practice Thursday, Anderson said.