FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson sees plenty of similarities between his Razorbacks and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Both programs want to play fast, determined to push the pace for 40 minutes. Both are shooting over 50 percent so far this season. Both facts have allowed each team to top the 90-point mark in every game as well.
Anderson believes that could continue when they meet tonight.
“You’re going to see two teams that like to get up and down the play with pressure defense and creating some easy opportunities,” Anderson said. “Attack basketball.”
Arkansas (1-0) returns to the court for its second nonconference test when it plays Louisiana-Lafayette (2-0) in Bud Walton Arena at 7 p.m. tonight. It will be the Razorbacks’ first game since last Friday’s season opener, while the Ragin’ Cajuns will be on the court for the third time in the past eight days.
The game is actually part of the Maui Invitational, serving as an on-campus tune-up of sorts for the Razorbacks. Arkansas also will play Southern Methodist in Bud Walton Arena on Monday night before heading out to Hawaii late next week for the eight-team tournament, opening against California on Nov. 25.
Anderson wants his team to take advantage of its opportunities before heading on the road for Maui. That includes tonight’s game against the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“They like to score and we like to score and I think that’s exciting,” Anderson said. “That’s how we practice. You think about it, we practice and get after each other each and every day. So hopefully having a team play the way we play, up-tempo, it should be a fun game. It should be great for our fans.”
ULL has 10 players back — including all five starters — returning from last season and the experience has helped it start 2-0 start for the first time since 2000-01.
Arkansas is ULL’s biggest test to date, though, after the Ragin’ Cajuns collected wins against Louisiana College (101-67) and McNeese State (92-66) last week. But Anderson believes ULL will test his team as well tonight.
He specifically pointed to 6-foot-9 forward Shawn Long has been dominant so far in averaging 26.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks. He also said guard Elfrid Payton — who was named to the Wooden Award preseason top 50 and is averaging 21.5 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists — will challenge his backcourt as well.
“We have our work cut out for us when you’ve got an inside-outside tandem coming and you have some guys that are role guys,” Anderson said. “You’ve got some guys that can put up some good numbers. Ninety-six points is a lot of points.”
But Arkansas scored 99 of its own in the opener against SIU-Edwardsville last Friday, getting contributions from 11 of the 13 players who were on the court.
The Razorbacks will add one more player to their rotation tonight when guard Ky Madden returns from suspension. The junior sat out Arkansas’ two exhibition games and the season opener after a violation of team rules, but has earned his way back.
Anderson said Madden’s return should only bolster Arkansas’ bench.
“It’s going to be an up-tempo game and I think depth is going to be really, really big in this game here,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, we have some guys come off the bench and give us some quality minutes. We’ve had some good bench play thus far, in one game, when you talk about the one game that counted.
“So hopefully it’s something we can build on for this game coming up.”
Tonight’s game will be just the third meeting between the programs and first since 1969, when ULL (which was then known as Southwestern Louisiana) beat Arkansas 94-85 in Lafayette. Arkansas won the only other meeting in 1963 (71-65).
Anderson is confident the third meeting will be entertaining.
“We’re looking to see if we can get better from the performance (last Friday night,” Anderson said. “I thought we had some good minutes, especially in the second half. I thought the second half was what we’ve been looking for and hopefully we can put together two good halves against Louisiana.”