Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas-Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Hogs trying to clean up mistakes
Free throws, rebounding hurt Arkansas vs. Clemson
Arkansas' Alandise Harris (2) shoots a free throw during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas out-played Clemson in nearly every area during its win last Saturday, but a lack of rebounds and free throws helped the Tigers close the gap late in the game.
Those two areas have been a point of emphasis for the Razorbacks as they prepare for five winnable in-state games before conference season starts next month. Arkansas begins the stretch Thursday night with a matchup against Savannah State.
"Everybody's got to go to the glass," said Arkansas forward Alandise Harris. "Sometimes we'll be a little under-sized. Me, I'm only 6-5. It's got to be a collective effort with everybody. Sometimes, we're in a position to just tip it, and the guards have got to come up with it."
Clemson out-rebounded Arkansas by 15 and recorded 19 offensive boards, though the Tigers only converted 14-second chance points. Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson said his team's uptempo philosophy tends to hurt his team on the boards, but the Hogs' problems are more a byproduct of effort.
Anderson challenged his team to rebound better after losing by 16 on the glass against California at the Maui Invitational. Arkansas responded by winning the rebound battle in three straight games against Minnesota, Gonzaga and Southeastern Louisiana before last weekend.
"I think it's more about the mindset, guys sticking their nose in there and getting the basketball," Anderson said. "Obviously we are not going to lead the nation in rebounding but when you play the way we play, we have got to have guys stick their nose in there and rebound the basketball. Rebounding is about effort and toughness.
"I think we have some guys that are capable of getting double figures in rebounding. I am looking forward to that day happening and hopefully pretty soon."
Clemson was aided most by the Razorbacks' inability to make free throws late in the game. Seven of Arkansas' 11 misses at the line Saturday came in the final 6 minutes.
The misses came from some of Arkansas' most reliable shooters. Harris (73 percent free throws) missed four late in the game, while Michael Qualls (81 percent) and Bobby Portis (79 percent) each missed one.
"You’re getting the guys up there you want," Anderson said. "You look at Alandise, one game he goes 10-for-11 and he said it best, just had a bad game. He goes 2-for-7, I think. He goes 0-for-5. Think about it, this is a guy that’s going to get fouled all year long. But he did make the ones that he needed to.
"But I still think we’re much better than last year in terms of shooting free throws. We've just got to get the right guys up there and then you’ve got to go make them. To me, the greatest part is we’re getting to the free throw line."
Anderson said Savannah State (2-8) will try to slow down the Razorbacks similar to the way Clemson did early Saturday. Arkansas forced 13 turnovers - several in deadball situations - in that game but only had 2 fast break points.
"We won," Harris said, "but we didn't really play our style at all."