FAYETTEVILLE -- Phil Cunningham will face the Arkansas Razorbacks as a head coach for the first time when his Troy team plays Saturday night at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, but he's seen them plenty previously as a Mississippi State assistant.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville joined the SEC for the 1991-92 season -- and won the regular-season championship under Coach Nolan Richardson -- when Cunningham was a graduate assistant for the Bulldogs.
Arkansas men vs. Troy
WHEN 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE Verizon Arena, North Little Rock
RECORDS Arkansas 7-2, Troy 5-5
SERIES Arkansas leads 3-1
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
"I remember that Arkansas team with Todd Day and Lee Mayberry and all those guys," Cunningham said. "They were really good."
Cunningham faced Arkansas 25 more times as an assistant coach for Mississippi State from the 2000-01 through 2011-12 seasons. His last season with the Bulldogs before becoming the Trojans' coach was Mike Anderson's first season back at Arkansas as the head coach after being an assistant to Richardson for 17 seasons.
Anderson was part of 13 NCAA Tournaments with Richardson and has led the Razorbacks to the NCAA Tournament two of the last three seasons.
"I know they've had some good teams at Arkansas since Mike came back, but I have a hard time believing that this isn't the best team -- the most complete team, the deepest team, the most versatile team -- that they've had since Coach Richardson left," Cunningham said. "I love their team right now. How well they play together and how they can score inside and out.
"Arkansas is scary team. I mean, look at what they just did to Minnesota."
The Razorbacks (7-2) beat Minnesota 95-79 in Walton Arena last Saturday when the Gophers were ranked No. 14.
Arkansas has been especially good at home, averaging 93.2 points. They have beaten Samford, Bucknell, Fresno State, Colorado State and Minnesota by an average of 23.4 points.
This is the first time since 1993-94 when Arkansas won the national championship that it has scored 90 or more points in six of its first nine games. The Razorbacks did it six times in their first 10 games 23 seasons ago.
"It's a game of runs with the way we play," Anderson said. "Our bench is playing well, we're defending, we're rebounding, and we've got guys that are capable scorers.
"We're assisting [on baskets], we're turning it over less, we're still making people turn it over. We're making them shoot a low field goal percentage.
"So let's knock on wood and hopefully we can just continue to be consistent in our effort."
The Razorbacks are averaging an SEC-leading 88.1 points and are the only conference team to have five players scoring 10 or more points with senior guards Jaylen Barford (19.9) and Daryl Macon (14.3), freshman forward Daniel Gafford (12.4), senior guard Anton Beard (11.7) and sophomore guard C.J. Jones (11.2).
Arkansas has a plus-4.4 turnover margin and is shooting 49.3 percent while holding opponents to 42.9 percent.
"The margin we're winning by, we feel like we just compete at practice every day and get better and get after each other's butts to make the game look easier," Beard said. "We feel like that just comes with it."
Making the Razorbacks' start more impressive is that their opponents are a combined 59-32. In addition to beating Minnesota (9-3), they've beaten Oklahoma (7-1), Connecticut (7-3) and Fresno State (9-2).
"I'm not surprised at all," Macon said. "I mean, we work hard. We've got a lot of nice pieces that start and come off the bench.
"So it doesn't surprise me if we go and beat a ranked team by 20. That's what we're supposed to do."
The Razorbacks' losses have been to No. 7 North Carolina 87-68 at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Ore. -- when Macon was limited to 23 minutes due to an ankle injury -- and 91-65 at Houston.
The Houston loss was Arkansas' next game after beating Connecticut by 35 points. Anderson said the Razorbacks might have been feeling too good about themselves after blowing out the Huskies.
Anderson said he doesn't believe the Razorbacks -- particularly their six seniors -- will make the mistake of being overconfident against Troy after beating Minnesota by 16 points.
"This is their last go-around," Anderson said. "The games are counting down on them. So it's got to be important. Every game.
"I always preach, each game is a big game, especially with this type of schedule. The Troy game is just as big as the Minnesota game."
Beard said the Razorbacks have learned from the Houston game.
"We felt like our defense didn't travel," he said. "As long as our defense travels everywhere we go, we won't have any problems.
"That Minnesota game is over with. Troy is the next opponent. We've just got to focus on them."
Gafford, 6-11, made his first start against Minnesota and had 16 points on 8-of-8 shooting along with 7 rebounds and 6 blocked shots in 21 minutes.
"When you get a guy out there like him, he commands attention offensively because you can throw it inside," Anderson said. "Not only that, he's a rim-protector. He rebounds above the rim. He runs the floor."
Kentucky beat Troy 70-62 earlier this season at Rupp Arena.
"Kentucky has all those great freshmen, but Gafford is just as good as any of those guys," Cunningham said. "In addition to his talent and size, he's got a motor that runs full gear at all times from what I've seen."
SUN BELT WOMEN
ARKANSAS STATE 52
Belmont (9-2) opened a 35-25 halftime advantage, then used a 27-10 third quarter to put away Arkansas State University (4-5) on Thursday morning in front of a crowd of 4,374 at First Bank Arena in Jonesboro.
Belmont shot 50 percent from the field and made seven three-pointers on its way to the victory. Darby Maggard led the Bruins with 22 points and 6 assists, while Kylee Smith added 15 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
Despite shooting 50 percent (6 of 12) from the field in the second quarter, the Red Wolves finished the game shooting just 30.2 percent (19 of 63), including 10 percent (1 of 10) from three-point range. Akasha Westbrook led the Red Wolves with 15 points and 6 rebounds, while Starr Taylor chipped in 13 points.
Lauren Bradshaw had two blocks in the game to move into first place on the all-time career blocks list with 134.
UALR men at Sam Houston State
WHEN 6:30 p.m. Central WHERE Johnson Coliseum, Huntsville, Texas RECORDS UALR 2-8; Sam Houston State 5-5 RADIO KKPT-FM, 94.1, in Little Rock
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
UALR POS. NAME, HT, YR PPG RPG G Andre Jones, 6-4, So. 13.3 5.0 G Jaizec Lottie, 6-1, Fr. 7.2 2.5 G Anthony Black, 5-7, Jr. 6.8 2.4 F Oliver Black, 6-9, Jr. 5.6 7.8 F Damir Hadzic, 6-9, Fr. 5.5 3.2 COACH Wes Flanigan (17-25 in two seasons at UALR and overall)
SAM HOUSTON STATE POS. NAME, HT, YR PPG RPG G John Dewey III, 6-0, Jr. 9.4 3.6 G Jamal Williams, 6-5, Sr. 8.1 5.9 G Marcus Harris, 6-0, Jr. 6.0 2.9 F Bubba Furlong, 6-9, Fr. 2.7 2.1 F Christopher Galbreath Jr., 6-7, Sr. 15.5 8.1 COACH Jason Hooten (142-103 in eight seasons at Sam Houston State and overall)
UALR SHSU 61.5 Points for 68.2 72.0 Points against 63.4 -0-7 Rebound margin +4.8 -0.9 Turnover margin +1.5 40.4 FG pct. 41.3 26.3 3-pt. pct. 32.7 63.2 FT pct. 66.2 CHALK TALK This is the final game of a three-game road trip for UALR. The Trojans lost 69-64 at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway on Saturday and 86-46 to Bradley in Peoria Ill., on Wednesday. … The Bearkats have won four consecutive games at home but have lost their last two games on the road — 84-56 at Baylor and 82-69 at Mississippi. … The Trojans raised their three-point shooting percentage from 25.0 to 26.3 after a 9-for-25 performance against Bradley. … UALR’s eight free-throw attempts against Bradley were a season low. … The 40-point loss to the Braves was the Trojans’ largest margin of defeat this season. They previously lost by 25 (76-51) at Grand Canyon on Nov. 18.
— Frankie Frisco
Sports on 12/15/2017
Print Headline: Anderson's Hogs awe Troy's coach