FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson wanted to make one thing clear as he spoke about his team’s next opponent Tuesday morning.
Robert Morris is more than just a dangerous underdog. They’re a very good team.
“They’ve play some quality teams,” Anderson said. “They played Xavier and they had Duquesne down by 20. They’re a very explosive team.
“It’s a big game for us and I am sure it’s a big circle on their schedule as well.”
Anderson has relayed the same message to his team all week as it prepares for tonight’s nonconference game in Bud Walton Arena. Robert Morris may not carry the luster of top-five opponents like Michigan or Syracuse, but he believes the Hogs (5-4) better be on high alert when the teams tipoff at 7 p.m.
Robert Morris (8-4) does bring a five-game win streak, previous NCAA Tournament experience and several veteran players to Fayetteville. The Colonials also have proven to be a dangerous team from behind the 3-point line this season, which can be the great equalizer against favored opponents like the Razorbacks.
Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell said the Razorbacks understand what Anderson is trying to tell them. He said Arkansas won’t take the Colonials lightly.
“Their record speaks for itself. Their appearances in the NCAA Tournaments speak for themselves,” Powell said. “They’re a pretty good team and we’re going to treat them like they’re any other team that comes in front of us. We’re going to go all out.”
Arkansas is trying to string together consecutive wins for the first time since opening the season 3-0. The Razorbacks began their current streak with a feel-good performance against Alcorn State last Saturday, enjoying a 97-59 romp after suffering through four losses in five games against big-name opponents.
The Razorbacks showed no signs of taking Alcorn State lightly in that win, which also came at the end of final exam week. Players said there was a reason for it.
“It was definitely a game that we wanted to get out some frustration,” Arkansas guard Kikko Haydar said. “People will say we played well in that five-game stretch, but we want results. We want to win. There’s no morale victories in college basketball. We wanted to take out some frustration and luckily we could do that.”
The goal now is to make sure it carries over to tonight’s game against Robert Morris, which has road wins at Savannah State, Campbell and Hampton under its belt. The Colonials nearly grabbed an upset at Xavier, too, suffering a 61-59 loss.
Robert Morris, which is shooting 35.4 percent from behind the 3-point line, will try to take advantage of Arkansas’ perimeter defense. Robert Morris made 13 3-pointers in the Louisiana-Lafayette win. It came a few days after the Colonials went 13-for-28 from behind the 3-point line in a 91-69 win against Duquesne.
“They’re really good shooters,” Arkansas guard Rickey Scott said. “They’re really great shooters, so we’re going to have to get out on them and contest shots.”
Arkansas has been able to spend extra time on the court this week preparing with the university’s class schedule completed for the fall semester. The Razorbacks practiced twice on Monday. They practice once Tuesday and twice Wednesday.
Anderson said it’s a valuable stretch for younger players as they continue to become acclimated to college basketball. He also said it’s an important time for guard Fred Gulley, who is eligible now after sitting out the semester because of transfer rules.
“This is the time of our year that our guys don’t have school and we have a lot of idle time,” Anderson said. “So we want to use that time wisely and get them in the gym.”
Arkansas hopes it pays off tonight against a Robert Morris team that Anderson believes will be a difficult test if the Razorbacks aren’t ready.
“They’re definitely dangerous,” Scott said. “I’m pretty sure they know how to win on the road. They brought a lot of guys back … We’re probably the biggest game on their schedule. We know they’re going to come at us hard.”