Mike Anderson was direct in discussing the one obvious strength of Texas A&M’s basketball team which has struggled this season at 1-4 in the SEC and 9-7 overall.
“When you have Tyler Davis (6-10, 270) their leading scorer, D.J. Hogg (6-9, 220) and the (Tonny Trocha) Morelos kid (6-10, 224), they got a lot of size,” Anderson stressed. “They’ll shoot it up there and they’ll go get it. They want the game to be at a pace where they can pound it inside. So that’s going to be our challenge, to keep them off the glass.”
To counter some of that size Anderson will likely give junior forward Trey Thompson added minutes in the game especially with the way Moses Kingsley has been targeted in SEC play so far.
“The more Trey Thompson keeps coming on for our basketball team I think the better we’re going to be,” Anderson predicted. “Because he’s going to give you a physical presence. He’s going to give you some size. He’s got really good basketball I.Q. in terms of passing the basketball. He sets great screens.”
Thompson is part of a Razorback bench that has been a key part of most of the Hogs 13 wins this season. Basically when Arkansas’ bench outscores the opponent’s bench the Razorbacks usually win. The margin was 38 to 24 in bench points in Arkansas’ recent 92-73 victory over Missouri.
“He lets us know that it’s not a big difference in each of our talents,” Thompson told reporters. “Like he says, he has ten or eleven starters. That gives us confidence, well, we’re not starting but we’re still going out and we can still produce quality minutes in the time that we’re given.”
Junior guard Anton Beard cracked the starting lineup in the Missouri game with 11 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. Anderson said that Beard has worked hard to improve his game.
“Last year, really he came in at halftime” (suspended the first semester), Anderson recalled. “This year he had the whole summer to play with these guys. Going into the fall he was at practice. So I think he’s a lot more comfortable. He’s one of the leading defensive players on our team. He’s settling us down on offense.”
“I’m more comfortable with the team, with the coaches, with my mind in where I’m at with everything I’ve been through,” Beard affirmed. “I just feel like I’ve let everything go and I’m just playing ball this year. Just having fun with it.”
The Aggies biggest weakness has been turnovers. A&M gave up 25 of them in a 100-58 loss to Kentucky on January 7. Anderson hopes his team can take advantage of that.
“We want to speed ’em up,” the head Hog acknowledged. “We want to disrupt them. We can’t let them get comfortable.”
But how comfortable is Anderson heading to College Station, a place where he’s never won both at Arkansas and when he was coaching at Missouri?
“We just haven’t played well and they’ve had a lot to do with that,” Anderson answered. “They had some really good teams.”
“The crowd is always into every play,” Beard added. “Momentum plays are big plays for them at home. They use their crowd to their advantage.”
“We’ve got to stick to the game plan,” Anderson emphasized. “When you go out you’re going to have some things that take place on the road whether you’re up or down. Poise is a big word and patience. I think you have to have that when you go on the road. You have to hang around and be there when it’s all said and done at the end. That’s what we did at Tennessee.”
Arkansas will be out to even its conference record at 3-3 against the Aggies in a 6 p.m. tip off at A&M’s Reed Arena.