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.
Hogs shake Demons with defense
Arkansas guard BJ Young gets high fives from his teammates as he leaves the game late in the second half of Saturday night's game against Northwestern State. Young and Hunter Mickelson each finished with a career-high 13 rebounds.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas shot 29 fewer free throws than Northwestern (La.) State on Saturday night, but the Razorbacks’ defense made it an insignificant statistic.
Arkansas held the Demons to 27.4 percent shooting from the field and 25 points under their scoring average as the Razorbacks won 79-61 before an announced crowd of 9,476 at Walton Arena.
“The way Arkansas mixed up their defenses really created problems for us,”Northwestern State Coach Mike McConathy said. “We just didn’t handle it very well.
“I thought they did a fabulous job. Their zone was really a problem for us, especially in the second half. They just kept pushing us further and further out.”
Northwestern State came into the game averaging 86.3 points to rank second nationally in scoring offense and was shooting 48.5 percent from the field. The Demons hit 17 of 62 shots against the Razorbacks, including 1 of 14 three-point attempts.
“I thought our defense was the difference in the game,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “Offensively, we weren’t in rhythm, we weren’t clicking like we normally are, but I can’t say enough about our defense.
“They’ve played against some pretty decent teams, so for us to hold them in the 60s is a real compliment to our guys.”
Arkansas sophomore guard BJ Young had 26 points, a career-high 13 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals in 31 minutes.
“He was phenomenal,” McConathy said. “That was a pretty good night’s work. I’ll bet you they’ll keep him around.”
Junior guard Mardracus Wade had a season-high 17 points, 6 assists and 4 steals for the Razorbacks (8-4), who won their fourth consecutive game. Wade hit 7 of 8 shots.
“He was everywhere on the court,” Young said. “He was assisting. He was knocking his shot down.
“He was pushing the ball and getting steals in the open court. Some of the exciting plays he made helped the energy of the whole team just rise up.”
Arkansas sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson had a career-high 13 rebounds along with 8 points and 4 blocked shots.
“We played pretty tough defense and made them take a lot of jump shots,” Mickelson said. “I don’t think they shot very well, so that, of course, led to rebounds. Our guys were pretty tough. We hit people and blocked out and we were able to get the rebounds.”
The Razorbacks out rebounded the Demons 57-41.
“Obviously, there were a lot of missed shots, but the key is you’ve got to get the rebounds,” Anderson said. “I thought we did that a lot better tonight than we have been.”
Northwestern State (5-4), which was led by junior forward James Hulbin’s 16 points, hit 26 of 42 free throws compared to 10 of 13 by the Razorbacks.
The difference in free throws helped the Demons stay close for much of the game. Arkansas led 59-53 before closing the game by outscoring Northwestern State 20-8 the final 7:39, including eight points by Young.
“We regrouped out of a timeout,” Young said. “Coach Anderson and the staff helped us keep our heads and told us not to panic.
“The home crowd was behind us, so it was easy to get back out and make plays. We took it one play at a time, and through that process we got the W.”
Anderson said there have been other games the Razorbacks won this season in which they struggled to put an opponent away late.
“We were focused from the start of the game to the ending horn,” he said. “That’s a step for this team.
“If you look back on some other games, we’d be up on teams going down the stretch, and somehow we seemed to let them get back in it. I thought tonight the emphasis was on finishing the game off.”
Young said it felt “odd” to win by so many points considering the Demons attempted so many more free throws than the Razorbacks did.
“We hadn’t played in a couple days, so we were kind of overly aggressive,” Young said. “But Coach told us to just keep playing hard, and try not to foul.
“But we can’t think about fouling. We just want to keep playing as hard and aggressive as possible.”
Arkansas 79, Northwestern State 61 South Carolina 76, Presbyterian 60 Illinois 64, Auburn 58 Texas A&M 61, Army 55 Louisville 80, Kentucky 77 Georgia 82, Florida A&M 73 Florida 78, Air Force 61 Tennessee 51, Xavier 47 Butler 68, Vanderbilt 49
TODAY’S GAMES All times Central
Alabama A&M at Mississippi State, 3 p.m.
Tulane at Alabama, 5 p.m.
E. Michigan at Kentucky, 5 p.m.
Florida State at Auburn, 6 p.m.
William & Mary at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.
Sports, Pages 21 on 12/30/2012