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 make case for harassment
Southeastern Louisiana's Joshua Filmore (23) looks to pass the ball as Arkansas' Mardracus Wade (1) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas scored more points in the first half of its last game than Clemson is allowing per game this season.
The Tigers (7-1) are leading the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to an average of 51.0 points per game, entering today’s 1 p.m. game against the Razorbacks (5-2) at Walton Arena.
Arkansas’ athletic department announced Friday afternoon the game would be played as scheduled. Clemson arrived in Fayetteville on Friday, despite a winter storm that pelted Northwest Arkansas with ice and snow and left overnight temperatures hovering around zero.
The weather might limit the crowd, but it won’t alter the contrasting styles of play.
Arkansas scored 52 points in the first half of its 111-65 victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday night. The Razorbacks are averaging 88.6 points, including 93.8 in their four home games.
“They preach that they’re the fastest 40 in college basketball, and they’re pretty close to it,” Clemson Coach Brad Brownell said. “They play 11, 12 guys, run them in and out. They’re all very talented, athletic, will press you a number of different ways.”
The Tigers’ victories include 71-57 over South Carolina, 72-58 over Temple and 85-54 over Davidson. They allowed their most points in a 62-56 loss to No. 21 Massachusetts on Nov. 24 in the championship game of the Charleston (S.C.) Classic.
“We’ve got to play the way we’re capable of playing, and that’s up-tempo basketball,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “Harassment, don’t let them get comfortable in what they want to do.”
Brownell said he’ll talk to the Tigers about today’s game being determined by how they react to the Razorbacks’ pressure defense.
“Offensively, in a game like this when you play Arkansas, it’s a ‘players make plays’ game,” he said. “You don’t get to run as much offense as you normally do because they don’t let you.”
Brownell said the Razorbacks, who have a plus-5.9 turnover margin, will trap constantly on defense.
“They don’t want you to run offense,” he said. “They want to make you make individual plays, and they’re not opposed to giving up some baskets to gamble to do that because they want the pace up and they want to keep playing fast and they want to wear you down.
“This isn’t one of those games where the coaches have a lot to do with it once it gets going. Guys are going to have to make plays and make good decisions. You’ve go to play with poise. You’ve got to make the right reads.
“If you do those things, you might have a chance to have an advantage situation and a basket. But if you don’t, they’re probably going to have an advantage situation and a basket.”
Anderson said the Tigers will mix up defenses between man-to-man and zone and do a good job of cutting off drives the basket.
“Whether they’re in a man defense or a zone, they make you take difficult shots,” he said.
Arkansas junior guard Ky Madden said the Razorbacks have to keep playing as they have all season and create easy scoring chances from their defense. They outscored Southeastern Louisiana 41-9 in points off turnovers.
“I think it starts on the defensive end,” Madden said. “Getting pressure, forcing turnovers and tough shots - shots they don’t normally make - and we get those rebounds and those turnovers and we push them.
“If we do what we do and get it at our tempo, then we’re going to have a pretty good game and a pretty high-scoring game.”
Clemson’s top guards, junior Rod Hall and sophomores Jordan Roper and Devin Coleman, have combined for 67 assists compared to 20 turnovers. The Tigers are averaging 11.0 turnovers.
“They value the basketball,” Anderson said. “So it’s going to take a lot from us to disrupt what they want to do.”
The Razorbacks are forcing an average of 18.6 turnovers per game - 21.4 at home. Southeastern Louisiana had 24 turnovers in Tuesday’s game.
“We’re all more comfortable at home, but I think teams that press, when you’re at home, you feed off that crowd and you feed off the environment,” Brownell said. “You’re willing to take a few more chances because you probably are playing a little bit better at home.
“It’s a big animal at their place.”
Arkansas has won 18 consecutive games at Walton Arena since losing to Syracuse 91-82 last season. But Clemson - playing its first road game this season - may catch a break today because a winter storm that pelted Arkansas with ice and snow figures to keep some fans at home.
“The beauty of it is we play basketball indoors, so if two teams show up, we’re going to still play,” Anderson said. “I’m sure Razorback fans will find a way to get here.”
Today’s game is the first of home-and-home series. Arkansas will play at Clemson next season.
“They were looking for a game, and we were looking for a series to start here,” Anderson said. “So we just kind of connected on that.
“It’s a big game for us, and it’s a big game for them.”
Arkansas men vs. Clemson WHEN 1 p.m.
WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 5-2, Clemson 7-1 TELEVISION Comcast Sports Southeast
Sports, Pages 19 on 12/07/2013