By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson was asked what concerned him most Monday about Alabama’s new-look team with JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell sitting out due to suspensions.
His answer had nothing to do with the Crimson Tide, although he’s certain Alabama (17-9, 6-6 in Southeastern Conference) will be a big test for the Razorbacks (17-10, 5-7 in SEC) Thursday.
"The biggest concern for us is the psyche of our basketball team coming off of a tough, tough loss," Anderson said. "Florida came in and they just beat us. So I’m anxious to see the psyche of our guys against a team that just won a game at home. It should be an interesting ballgame."
Anderson is hoping his team can find a way to move past its worst week of the season and snap out of a February swoon when it plays Alabama in Bud Walton Arena on Thursday night.
The Razorbacks have lost four of their past five games and didn’t look good in going 0-2 last week, suffering 19- and 30-point losses to Tennessee and Florida, respectively.
Most concerning to Anderson is the fact the Razorbacks showed signs of wearing down, failing to play with much energy in either outing.
"I think sometimes fatigue is a factor and it might be even with our guys fatiguing now with having ... only 8 guys, 8 scholarship guys for a period," Anderson said Tuesday.
But Anderson doesn’t want players using it as an excuse for their recent struggles. Players seem to be listening. When asked about fatigue Tuesday, guard BJ Young said he’s doing fine.
"I am not drained until the season is over," said Young, who has averaged 30.3 minutes the past three games. "I just want to get us as far as we can in the season we play and keep playing another game. That’s all my goal is. If I have to get tired, then I have to get tired. It’s OK."
Anderson said he’s doing everything possible to try to keep his team fresh — but sharp — as they prepare for the final four games of the regular season. The Alabama game kicks off a stretch of three games in six days sure to test his team mentally and physically. So Anderson said the Hogs already have scaled back in practice.
He said Monday’s workout, for example, lasted roughly 45 minutes. Weight rooms sessions for players have been shorter, too. Arkansas forward Marvell Waithe believes the plan will work.
"He’s been doing this for 30 years, so he knows what he’s doing," Waithe said. "Practice is a little bit shorter, but we get what we need to get done. We have three games in six days, so it’s crucial that we stay fresh, and he’s doing a great job of keeping us that way."
Anderson hasn’t had many options off the bench this season because of Arkansas’ depth issues, but said he will try to get more minutes out of walk-ons. He pointed out forward Brandon Mitchell and guard Kikko Haydar, saying both could earn even more time to help keep other players fresh.
Anderson is hoping it will pay off on the defensive end, where the Razorbacks have struggled during its two-game losing skid. Tennessee and Florida combined to shoot 57.1 percent from the field against the Razorbacks. It included 64.7 percent in the first half.
"I don’t think our energy level’s there," Anderson said. "I don’t think we’re protecting the rim. ... We’re not playing defense. You know there are times when you’ve got to have patience on defense. I think sometimes we don’t have patience on defense. We’re trying to get to the offensive end. A lot of that has to do with energy as well. When you run out of gas, man, you can’t get to that next guy, that guy spotting up shooting that shot. The rebound. The effort. It’s all about effort. So we’ve got to shore that up."
But Anderson thought the Razorbacks have taken steps in the right direction since the Florida loss. He’s hoping it will carry over to Thursday night, when Arkansas tries to stop its slide.
"We had probably a pretty good workout (Monday) and hopefully we can come in and have even a better workout (Tuesday)," Anderson said. "I thought our energy was good. I thought our focus was good. So the only way is to get that taste or get that mindset is to go play the next game."
Alabama forward JaMychal Green was reinstated to the team for practice earlier this week. But Alabama coach Anthony Green confirmed Tuesday that Green will not be available for Thursday’s game against the Razorbacks.
Green, who has missed the past three games after being suspended for violating team rules, has been permitted to workout with teammates but will sit out a fourth straight game when the Crimson Tide play at Alabama. Teammate Tony Mitchell, who has missed four straight games after being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, will not rejoin Alabama the rest of the season.
Green scored 14 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in Alabama’s 72-66 win against Arkansas on Jan. 28.
Anderson said forward Marshawn Powell’s rehabilitation has been "as good as it can be."
Powell is working his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, which he suffered in November after averaging 19.5 points and 6 rebounds in two games. He has watched home games from the bench and Anderson said the junior has traveled with the team on a few occasions.
"We don’t want him to just be isolated over there," Anderson said. "You’re talking about a guy that’s been starting ever since he’s been here. Now he’s on the sideline. He was excited when the season started and he started out with a bang. But I think he’s in OK spirits.
"He’s staying in tune, hopefully to the classroom, doing what he’s supposed to do there and just getting prepared for next year."