Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
ARKANSAS MEN’S BASKETBALL:
Three-pointers not falling early
Mardracus Wade, who led the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage last season, is one of several Arkansas players off to a rough start this year.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas sophomore guard BJ Young is averaging a team high 21.4 points, but only 9 of his 107 points have come on three-point baskets.
After shooting 41.3 percent from three-point range last season with 50 baskets on 121 attempts, Young has started 3 of 19 this season for 15.8 percent.
“We know he’s better than that,” Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. “Let’s hope it’s coming.
“He’s due. Not only is he due, our whole team is due.”
Six games into this season Arkansas (3-3) is on pace to have its worst three-point shooting team since the NCAA added the three-point line for the 1985-1986 season.
The Razorbacks are shooting 26.2 percent on three point attempts (27 of 103) to rank 13th in the SEC - Mississippi State is shooting 22.6 percent - and tie for 316thnationally out of 347 NCAA Division I teams.
Arkansas’ worst three-point shooting is 31.0 percent (170 of 548) during the 2002-2003 season, when the Razorbacks finished 9-19 in Stan Heath’s first season as coach.
“I think our shooting is a lot better than it’s showing at this time,” Anderson said. “But you’ve got to remember also we’ve played against some very good basketball teams.”
The Razorbacks have shot a combined 23.1 percent on three-point attempts (12 of 52) in losing their last three games against Arizona State 83-68 and Wisconsin 77-70 in Las Vegas and to No. 4 Syracuse 91-82 in Walton Arena.
Ending the three-point shooting problems don’t figure to be easy for the Razorbacks when they play Oklahoma (6-1) at 6 tonight in Walton Arena. The Sooners are holding opponents to 26.1 percent on three-point attempts (29 of 111).
Oklahoma Coach Lon Kruger said the stats don’t mean the Sooners will shut down the Razorbacks from the perimeter.
“Arkansas is going to break out of that - I just hope it’s not against us,” Kruger said. “But they shot the ball well last year from the three last year, and I’m sure they’ll do it again.”
Kruger said the Sooners won’t be daring Young to shoot three-pointers. He hit 3 of 7 three-pointers while scoring 24 points in the Razorbacks’ 78-63 loss at Oklahoma last season.
“BJ Young is a terrific player and he does a lot of things well, whether it’s getting in the paint, getting to the rim, drawing contact, getting to the free throw line or making three point shots,” Kruger said. “You have to guard him like you expect him to drive it and make shots, which makes him a very, very tough match up.”
The Razorbacks shot 35.3percent from three-point range last season led by junior guard Mardracus Wade, who led the SEC at 47.6 percent (70 of 147). So far this season Wade is shooting 28.6 percent (4 of 14). Excluding his 3 of 3 shooting against Florida A&M, he’s 1 of 11 in the Razorbacks’ other five games.
Freshman guard Anthlon Bell, the top shooter among Arkansas’ newcomers, has hit 27.3 percent (6 of 22) from three-point range.
“There some guys that we expect to shoot the basketball, and they’re not shooting it right now,” Anderson said. “They’re not performing. So that means maybe we’re going to bring somebody off the bench to put them out there to get it started.
“You’ve got to be able to knock shots down. ... I think our guys are a little tentative about taking shots.”
Syracuse outscored Arkansas by 21 points at the three point line, hitting 11 of 26 - including 9 of 13 by senior forward James Southerland - compared to 5 of 24 by the Razorbacks. Freshman guard Dee Wagner hit 2 of 4 three pointers while Young, Wade and Bell were a combined 2 of 14.
“Coach talks to us about being comfortable shooting the ball,” Wagner said after the game. “Be more confident and act like you do in practice. The atmosphere was big, probably a little more pressure, but you’ve got to overcome that.”
Wagner may have earned a start, or at least more playing time, after he had had 6 points and 3 assists without a turnover against Syracuse. He’s hit 4 of 9 three-pointers on the season.
“I just think we’re much more in a rhythm, much more effective,” Anderson said of when Wagner is playing. “I think guys trust him in terms of making decisions out there, and defensively, he causes some havoc. He’s like a little floor general.
“He’s getting the ball to the right people at the right time. That makes a big difference.”
Sports, Pages 17 on 12/04/2012