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After routing two exhibition foes by a combined total of 94 points, Arkansas' basketball team opens up its 2012-2013 regular season Friday night with Sam Houston State.
The Razorbacks and Bearkats will meet in a 7 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena as Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson heads into his second season at the helm.
"It's hard to believe it's year two and we are getting ready to open up against Sam Houston State," Anderson said. "I am sure our guys will be ready to play the game on Friday. Hopefully we can open up in the right way."
Anderson does feel more confident heading into this season than he did his rookie campaign in Fayetteville.
"One thing I can say is I have a better idea about this basketball team than going into the season last year," Andersons said. " With the trip to Italy, the chance to play four games, and the 10 days of practice prior to that, that's huge for this team and hopefully it's going to pay off."
Arkansas sophomore center Hunter Mickelson remembers how different opening night was for him last season from the exhibitions.
"It was a bit of a shocker because there are more people in the stands than there are in the preseason games," Mickelson said.
This will be the first college game for freshman shooting guard Anthlon Bell, who pumped in 28 points in the two exhibition games.
"We know this year that people are expecting a lot," Bell said. "So we just want to go out there and show them that we have been working hard."
The Razorbacks will play the game without All-SEC sophomore guard B.J. Young, who will be sitting out the final game of a two-game suspension for violation of team rules.
Sam Houston State was 13-18 a year ago under head coach Jason Hooten and has a pair for returning starters in 5-11 senior point guard Darius Gatosn (6.7) and 6-4 junior shooting guard DeMarcus Gaitlin (10.4).
The Bearcats – a Southland Conference team picked to finish seventh in the league this season - also feature a 6-11 center in sophomore Michael Holyfield, who averaged 4.0 points and 3.7 rebounds last season.
"Sam Houston is going to come in here with nothing to lose," Anderson said. " And first games of the season, you never know how teams are going to come out. But I am sure Coach Hooten will have those guys ready. I had the chance to spend some time sitting next to him during recruiting last summer. It is interesting we are going to be playing those guys. But it's a team with competition much better than the exhibition games."
Hooten has five returnees and seven newcomers this season.
"We're real excited about the season," Hooten said. " We have a different team than we did last year. We shoot the ball really well. I think that will be the strength of our team. Hopefully, we're as good defensively as we were last year. We were 28th in the country in defense last year. I'm hoping we can have that same type of mentality, defensively, and then shoot the ball. Usually those two equal out to wins."
Sam Houston State will play at Arkansas, at Indiana and at Texas all during the first month of the season.
"When we go play those big teams, we play to compete and play to win," Holyfield added. "We're not just going up there for a game."
Anderson said he is more worried about his team than the foe.
"I am more concerned about the things we have got to do, to get better with our offense and create tempo with our defense," Anderson said. " Can we get the game going up and down the floor to our liking and make depth an issue? Our bench against their bench. I like our bench at this point in time, but now we are going to play a game that's going to count. It's different territory."
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