FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas forward Marvell Waithe is a senior. So he knows what it's like this time of year.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas forward Marvell Waithe is a senior. So he knows what it’s like this time of year.
School is out. Classmates have left for winter break. And players are anxiously counting down the days until they’re released, too, to enjoy Christmas with family.
Waithe said it’s a dangerous scenario for a young team.
“Christmas break comes up, a lot of guys kind of check out because everybody gets to go home,” Waithe said.
“We’ve got to make it our duty to leave everything on the floor, go home for a couple days, and come back and then pick up where we left off.”
The Razorbacks (7-3) return to the court with a chance to prove they won’t be caught dreaming about some time off against Louisiana Tech (7-5) in Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas wraps up a rapid-fire stretch of three games in six days tonight, and coach Mike Anderson has cautioned his young team its only thought must be taking a step forward on the court after beating Southeastern Louisiana (62-55) and Eastern Kentucky (71-57) in the past week.
“We’re looking forward to playing another game,” Anderson said. “After Thursday, the guys will have a couple of days where to go home and spend some time for Christmas. … But you’ve got to keep them focused on the task at hand.”
Louisiana Tech will come to Fayetteville with plenty of motivation under first-year coach Michael White, a former Ole Miss guard and assistant under Andy Kennedy.
White’s roster includes Arkansas natives Raheem Appleby (Jacksonville) and Kenyon McNeall (Conway). Former Ole Miss guard Trevor Gaskins is on the roster, too, leading the Bulldogs in scoring (11.3 points) as a senior.
Isaac Brown, who was an assistant at Arkansas under former coach John Pelphrey, is on White’s staff.
Louisiana Tech has won three straight and is traveling to Arkansas for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
So guard Mardracus Wade believes the Bulldogs will provide a good test, especially since the Razorbacks have only had one day in between games to prepare.
“It’s just another obstacle in our way that we have to try to accomplish,” Wade said. “We’re young. So these young guys, they haven’t experienced this yet. It’s a great learning tool for us to try to get better and see what happens. See if we can capitalize on it or see what really happens. So I think it’s going to be good for us.”
One of Arkansas’ goals tonight is to get an offense that has struggled in its past few games back on track.
The Razorbacks shot just 31.6 percent in its win against Eastern Kentucky, relying on strong free-throw shooting to beat the Colonels. Arkansas led by as 19 points in the second half, but struggled to put Eastern Kentucky away.
“We’ve just got to learn how to become a better finishing team. Especially here,” Anderson said. “No matter where we play, you’ve got to be able to finish off a team.”
Arkansas hopes it will get a chance to do so tonight, wrapping up is pre-Christmas schedule.
The Razorbacks will be rewarded with two full days off when it’s over, but Waithe said Arkansas won’t be thinking about the holiday break tonight. Instead, he said the only focus is finding a way to win another game.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Waithe said. “I think we’ve got a group of guys who are hungry. We’ll get ready for it.”