FAYETTEVILLE — For last season’s 16-16 Razorbacks it was unthinkable to remove center Moses Kingsley from the game unless he was in foul trouble, exhausted or Arkansas either irrevocably behind or ahead.
For these current 7-1 Razorbacks, Coach Mike Anderson can and does rest Kingsley, the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, for as long as he wishes in both halves.
Trey Thompson, the burly 6-9 junior from Madison and Forrest City High grad plays that well as the backup center.
Kingsley’s fine 14 points, nine rebounds two blocked shots, one assist and one steal effort in Tuesday night’s 84-72 victory over the Houston Cougars at Walton Arena stemmed in part from his freshness. Thompson totaled the other 13 minutes remaining from Kingsley’s 27 spelling him during each half.
During Arkansas’ 12-0 run in the first half, Thompson blocked two shots within three seconds.
In the second half at 9:34 and Arkansas only up four, Thompson hit a surprise corner jumper jumper. He scored again at 7:44 upping a 3-point lead to five and dished an assist each half.
Thompson only netted one rebound, but used his bulk to box out Cougars allowing other Razorbacks to get the rebound and outboard Houston, 39-31.
Anderson attributed Kingsley’s 10-points/7-rebounds second half in part to the seven minutes that Thompson spelled him in the first half.
"Moses Kingsley and everyone were getting rebounds down the stretch because they were a lot fresher," Anderson said. "In the second half I thought Moses established himself a little deeper in there and we swung the ball to him and he was able to finish. So we just have to put two halves for him together and I think we will see how much Moses has improved. But he’s got help now. That’s the beauty of it all. There’s no pressure on Moses that "I have got to do this’ because we have other guys that are contributing in a big way like Trey Thompson. I thought he played well."
Junior guard and North Little Rock High grad Anton Beard, nine points two rebounds, an assist and two steals in 24 minutes was another subtle component off the bench and senior guard Dusty Hannahs an obvious the bench factor sharing 17 points team scoring honors with starting guard Daryl Macon, a junior college transfer and Little Rock Parkview alum.
"I thought Anton Beard had his imprint on this game in both halves tonight," Anderson said.
Hannahs, a Little Rock native and Pulaski Academy grad, scored 17 points in 17 minutes.
"Look how efficient he is," Anderson said. "And he was spent, too. He played hard and he played the right way. He’s still starting in my mind."
Like Nolan Richardson, Anderson’s mentor for him he played at Tulsa and assisted for 17 years at Arkansas, Anderson’s style makes the bench often as important or even more important than the starters.
This one over Houston, though four of the five starters, Macon, Kingsley, Dustin Thomas and Manuale Watkins all posted big games, the bench "got the game ball," Anderson said.
All used off the bench contributed something. Freshman guard C.J Jones netted a key 3-pointer and assist and two rebounds in seven minutes. Freshman forward Adrio Bailey netted two rebounds a point and an assist and junior college transfer forward Arlando Cook’s rebound contributed to the Hannahs, Beard, and Thompson led off the bench effort.
Dead even with Houston, 38-38 on points in the paint, and points off fast breaks, 12-12, Arkansas gaveled Houston off the bench.
Arkansas reserves outscored Houston’s reserves 34-14 and obviously fatigued the Cougars down the stretch.
"The difference in this game was our bench play," Anderson said.