Hoop Hogs hope to snap 2-game home skid Saturday against 10-1 Texas State

More Will Play A Role In Razorback Basketball Offense In 2013-14_-3246139345075616493
By Kevin McPherson  
LITTLE ROCK — After doubling their non-conference home loss total under 8-year head coach Mike Anderson in the span of 11 days, the Arkansas Razorbacks may see a shakeup in the lineup Saturday when Texas State comes to Fayetteville for a 1 p.m. CT tip-off at Bud Walton Arena.
At least that’s what Anderson foreshadowed Thursday during his press conference while reflecting on Arkansas’s sluggish 1-2 mark in its last three outings, which includes back-to-back home losses against Western Kentucky (78-77 on Dec. 8) and Georgia Tech (69-65 on Wednesday). Prior to that, the Hogs were 67-2 in non-conference home games under Anderson.
(Texas State) is going to be a well-coached team and we are going to really have to step up our game in terms of the intensity that we play with with the guys that are starting off and even from the guys coming off the bench,” Anderson said.  “So with that being said, I might even shake up the lineup. Sometimes you get complacent and you’ve got to shake it up a little bit so we get that energy we’ve got to play with.”
Anderson, who historically has tinkered with different lineups in November and December, had gone with the same starting five in Arkansas’s first 10 games — sophomore center Daniel Gafford, junior forward Adrio Bailey, sophomore guard Jalen Harris, sophomore wing Mason Jones, and freshman guard Isaiah Joe. Freshman forward Reggie Chaney might be the leading candidate to earn his first career start given that in both of the Hogs’ last two games he has started the second half in place of junior forward Adrio Bailey, who has been in a significant slump in the last three games.
I’ll see here in the next couple days in practice in terms of who’s going to be in the lineup,” Anderson said. “But I just think we need an infusion of energy. I think I need energy guys out there … He’s struggling, Adrio that is. So maybe it’s somebody else’s time to step in there.”
The Razorbacks (7-3) face a Texas State squad (10-1) that has won eight consecutive games, a streak that includes four wins on the road. The Bobcats of the Sun Belt and the Hogs have so far played a common opponent — Texas-San Antonio. Texas State defeated the Roadrunners, 69-68, in San Antonio on Dec. 1, while Arkansas broke open a two-point game in the final two minutes to win going away, 79-67, last Saturday in North Little Rock.

A common “struggle” theme for Arkansas in the past three games has been the Razorbacks’ inability to solve, attack, and score against zone defenses. Specifically, the offense has sputtered while: a) trying to play inside-out through Gafford, b) not finding creases and driving lanes, and c) not maximizing opportunities to pass into (and attack from) the high-post/free-throw-line-extended and the baseline. 

Georgia Tech, a strong defensive team coming in, gave Arkansas fits while employing a 1-3-1 zone that at times morphed into a matchup with man-to-man principles, a 2-3, a 3-2, and 2-1-2. Arkansas strung together a few runs after falling behind 15-4 early in the game, but never led by more than 5 points before finally succumbing to a 6-0 run in the final two minutes of the game that sealed the win for the Yellowjackets. Arkansas was outrebounded (43-31), lost the second-chance-points battle (15-3), and was doubled up in made free throws (14-of-20 compared to 7-of-9).

I don’t like it,” Anderson said of his team’s two-game home skid that followed an overall six-game winning streak. “No. 1, I don’t like it. I know that. But at the same time, leaving last night I was very disappointed. When I think about this team and all the new pieces … they’re learning on the job. They’re thrust into a situation where they’ve got to learn, and the games are going to get tougher and tougher. So they’ve got to learn to really just grind it out. People have scouting reports. They’re going to get after Daniel. They’re going to push him around and he’s got to be able to counter that. I think you’ve just got to make the adjustment as teams come at you. They’re challenging Isaiah. They’re getting after him a little bit, which is good. I think you learn how to play, because that’s what we’re going to see in the SEC. Jalen Harris, I think he’s got to continue to shoot the basketball. He’s getting good shots. They’re backing off of him. 


“But more importantly I just think the energy and the effort, sometimes when you have a little success, complacency sets in. And I think with this team here, they’ve got to understand every game’s a big game.”


Arkansas’s strength has been its defense, although that end of the floor has been a bit up and down of late for the Hogs. Still, Arkansas is yielding 38.6% opposition field goal shooting (including 30.1% from 3) while forcing 16.8 turnovers per game (Hogs’ are plus-3.4 per contest) and winning steals/blocks decisively (plus-60 on the season).


Gafford leads Arkansas in scoring (17.5 points per game, which is third in the SEC), rebounding (9.2, second in the SEC), blocks (2.3, third in the SEC), and field goal percentage (66.7%, tops in the SEC). Joe is second on the team in scoring (16.4 points, which is 6th in the SEC), first on the team and in the SEC in 3-pointers made (41), second in the SEC in 3-point percentage (46.1%), and tied for first on the team in steals (1.2). Harris leads the SEC in assists (7.2 per game), his 72 assists to 11 turnovers is among the best in the natioan, and he leads the team in free throw percentage (81.6%, which is 7th in the SEC). Jones is third on the team in scoring (13.8 points), second in rebounds (5.4), and second in assists (3.1) while shooting a solid 41.9% from 3.


Leading the second unit for the Razorbacks through 10 games is Chaney (16.9 minutes, 5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 55.1% field goals) and freshman guard Desi Sills of Jonesboro (15.3 minutes, 5.4 points, 1.7 assists, 1.4 rebounds, 52.9% field goals including 38.9% from 3).


Texas State is led by junior guard Nijal Pearson, who’s averaging 19.9 points (on 50.3% field goal shooting, including 36-of-73 from 3 for 49.3%), 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.4 steals in 31.9 minutes per game. Senior guard Tre’Larenz Nottingham is averaging 10.7 points, 3.5 rebounds. 2.7 assists, and 1.1 steals in 27.5 minutes. Senior forward Alex Peacock is averaging 9.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.


We know he’s capable and all and he’s 6-6, strong build and he’s a man,” Anderson said of Peason. “He’s an older kid. This is an experienced team, so we’re going to have to play good basketball.”


As a team the Bobcats average 76 points, 18 assists, 7 steals, and 3 blocks per game while shooting 47.5% field goals, 35.6 3-point field goals, and 73.0% free throws.


Hog food for Hog thought ​…

— After winning 64 straight home games when leading at halftime, the Hogs stumbled twice in a row at home after leading at the break against Western Kentucky (78-77) and Georgia Tech (69-65), marking the first time that has happened since November 2009 (Morgan State and South Alabama), per HogStats.com. 
— Georgia Tech improved to 5-1 all-time against Arkansas, including a 5-game winning streak in the series. Wednesday’s matchup was the first time the teams had played in Fayetteville.
— Arkansas sophomore center Daniel Gafford fouled out against Georgia Tech on Wednesday, marking his first disqualification since Nov. 26, 2017, when he fouled out during Arkansas’s 102-67 win over UConn at the PK80 Invitational in Portland. It was the Hogs’ sixth game of the 2017-18 season, and it was Gafford’s third and final disqualification as a freshman. He would pick up 4 fouls in 15 other games last season. So far through 10 games in ’18-19 — roughly one-third of the regular season — he’s had two games with 4 fouls in addition to fouling out on Wednesday. The 6-11 El Dordo native picked up his third, fourth, and fifth fouls in the final 1:47 of the game.
— After starting the season 6-1 and climbing to No. 32 on the NCAA’s NET rating  — which replaces RPI this season to help the NCAA tournament selection committee determine at-large bids and seeding — Arkansas has fallen to No. 104 after going 1-2 (including two homes losses) in its last three games. The Hogs’ opponent on Saturday — 10-1 Texas State — is currently ranked No. 85.
— Arkansas’s final non-conference opponent — Texas Tech — had won its first 10 games before falling Thursday, 69-58, against No. 2 Duke at Madison Square Garden. The 12th-ranked Red Raiders (currently 10-1) will host the Hogs on Jan. 26 as part of the Big XII-SEC Challenge.
Zone defense may be the two dirtiest words to be uttered right now around Hog fans after Western Kentucky, Texas-San Antonio, and Georgia Tech almost exclusively employed zone D’s as each prevented Arkansas from cracking the 80-point threshhold while limiting the Hogs to an average of 73.3 points in the 3-game stretch. On the season, the Razorbacks average 83.3 points per game. 
— The Razorbacks are now 2-3 in games they trailed in the second half — the wins coming against now-No. 22 Indiana (10-2) and Texas-San Antonio (4-7), and the losses coming against Texas (7-3), Western Kentucky (5-6), and Georgia Tech (6-4).

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