FAYETTEVILLE - The five in the Arkansas Razorbacks’ 5-1 record all were consecutively delivered home-cooked at Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Tonight for the first time since the one, the season-opening 73-71 in overtime loss to the Texas Longhorns at the ESPN Armed Forces Classic at the Fort Bliss Army base in El Paso, Texas, coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks venture away from Arkansas.
At 9 p.m. televised by the CBS Sports Network, Arkansas of the SEC visits the Mountain West’s Colorado State University Rams, 4-4, at the Rams’ Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo.
The Rams aren’t touted like Texas, the Longhorns were nationally No. 17 last week until upset in their Austin home by Radford University, but will have a fully partisan crowd cheering them on and likely jeering Arkansas tonight whereas the Arkansas visit to El Paso was on an allegedly neutral site Army base.
Since El Paso is in Texas, that site wasn’t exactly neutral, but certainly not the fully partisan crowd that Anderson expects besetting Arkansas tonight.
So the coach departed Tuesday from Fayetteville carrying questions he seeks answered tonight in Fort Collins.
“It’s the first true road game for us,” Anderson said. “I’m anxious to see how we respond going to a place where we don’t sleep in our own bed and we are playing in a different venue. As coach, you want to see if your game will travel. Will your defense travel? Will your offense execute the things we’ve been working on. Will that travel? Rebounding is going to be a big key in this game here. Can we continue to get the productivity off our bench?”
Arkansas trounced the Rams 92-66 last season at Walton Arena, but Arkansas’ scoring leaders of that game are no longer Razorbacks.
Guard Jaylen Barford, 19 points, graduated, while reserve guard C.J. Jones, 19, points, transferred to Middle Tennessee State.
Prentiss Nixon scored 31 for Colorado State, but transferred to Iowa State after CSU coach Larry Eustachy was compelled to resign.
New coach Niko Medved, hired from Drake, has the Rams off to a better start than their 11-19 finish last season.
“Colorado State I think is much improved from last season,” Anderson said. “They have a new coach and I think they’ve got some really good players. They’ve got five guys scoring in double figures. They have a lot of new players just like we have a lot of new players.”
Freshman starting point guard Kendle Moore has dished 22 assists and averages 11.3 points.
Kris Martin, a 6-4 guard redshirted last season transferred from Oral Roberts University and suspended for this season’s first five games, leads CSU in scoring average, 15.7, playing the last three games off the bench.
Adam Thistlewood, a 6-6 freshman, also plays off the CSU bench.
Key CSU starting holdovers from the Eustachy to Medved regimes include guards Anthony Masington-Bonner, 15.4 points, J.D. Paige, 15.1 points, 6-11 center Nick Caravacho, averaging a double-double of 12.0 points and 10.4 rebounds, and a former Razorback, 6-7 junior forward Lorenzo “Doobie” Jenkins, 9.3 points.
Jenkins was signed late out of Naples, Fla., before the Hogs went 16-16 in 2015-2016 on a team needing practice player bodies between graduating seniors, losing two transfers and especially Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls turning pro early after the 2014-2015 Hogs went 27-9.
Jenkins only played one game that entire Arkansas season, but after sitting out 2015-2016 redshirting upon transferring to CSU, played off the bench with one start in every Rams game last season and started all eight games this season.
“Doobie is a good player,” Anderson said. “We signed him late and obviously it didn’t work out and now he’s found a home. I’m sure he’s excited to be playing against the Razorbacks.”
Anderson expresses excitement about his Hogs defensively whether forcing tempo against teams that want to slow it down or running against Florida International wanting to run with the Hogs, but paying a 121-89 bench.
Offensively, he’s liked that the Hogs continue to recognize sophomore star center Daniel Gafford of El Dorado as their inside meal ticket, but recognize a hot hand like finding Isaiah Joe on the range when the freshman from Fort Smith Northside hit 10-of-13 threes and scored a career high 34 against FIU while sophomore point guard Jalen Harris dished 10 assists.
The young bench, a detriment when Arkansas lost its opener to Texas, already has come of age getting major production from freshmen Desi Sills, Reggie Chaney, Keyshawn Embery-Simpson and sophomore Gabe Osabuohien.
“We’ve got some guys that are starting really to figure out their roles and that continues to make us a better basketball team,” Anderson said.
However all that figuring came within the comforts of home.
“Will it travel?” Anderson asks on his Hogs’ lone remaining trip out of Arkansas before opening the SEC campaign Jan. 5 at Texas A&M.