There were some positive signs in Arkansas’ 94-88 overtime loss to LSU. The Hogs scored in the 80’s for the first time since a 98-74 road win over Colorado State on December 5th. They scored 37 more points than they did in a loss to Florida three days earlier. They also outscored the Tigers 54-44 in the paint ending a series of games where they struggled to penetrate the opponent’s defense.
After a nine-point performance by forward Daniel Gafford against the Gators, a game where he got off just four shots, the sophomore from El Dorado put up 19 shots and scored 32 points against LSU. Arkansas had 21 assists against the Gators to just 10 in the Florida game. All of this was encouraging news for a young team that has relied way too much on outside jump shots.
The bad news is, a shooting slump that began about the time the semester break started, continued against LSU. While Gafford was connecting on 73 percent of his shots off of layups and dunks, Arkansas’ shooters were still clanking field goal attempts.
Isaiah Joe, supposedly the team’s best outside shooter, saw his slump continue, hitting just two of five shots from the floor while missing his only three-point attempt. Point guard Jalen Harris was two of seven on two-point attempts and connected on just one of his four three-point attempts. Desi Sills was zero for four and zero for two. Keyshawn Embrey-Simpson was one for four from the floor and missed all three of his three-point attempts.
Only one Razorback shot well away from the basket. Mason Jones continued to step up during the shooting drought plaguing the rest of Arkansas’ perimeter players. Jones shot 50 percent from the floor, hit two of five three-point attempts and converted eight of nine shots from the line to score 22 points against LSU.
Forward Reggie Chaney was the other bright spot offensively going six of eight from the floor for 12 points in the game, but Chaney was mostly dropping in layups and dunks.
Take Jones out of the mix and the Hogs went five of twenty from the perimeter, a miserable 25 percent shooting night.
With just slightly better numbers the Hogs would have beaten both Florida and LSU.
If the current shooting slump has anything to do with the semester break then things could pick up again once classes resume at the University of Arkansas and these players get back into a normal routine, one that doesn’t see their days dominated by a basketball-only schedule. Classes resume Monday, January 14th but it will be the week of January 20th before the players back to a full week of classes mixed with basketball.