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.
Wade re-emerges for Arkansas
Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade defends South Alabama's Augustine Rubit Saturday Dec. 21, 2013, at Verizon Arena.
Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade scored as many points in 29 seconds against South Alabama on Saturday night as he had combined in the Razorbacks’ previous eight games.
Wade’s five points helped Arkansas hold on to beat the Jaguars 72-60 at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.
The Razorbacks (9-2) saw a 44-32 lead shrink to 46-43 with 9:09 left after making just 1 of 10 from the field - Alandise Harris hit a jumper - and suffering three turnovers on 13 consecutive possessions.
Then Wade, a senior from Memphis, reappeared after seemingly being buried on the bench in recent weeks.
“He stopped the bleeding,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said.
Wade grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled by Ken Williams and made two free throws with 7:59 left to put Arkansas ahead 48-43. Then, after a South Alabama turnover, Wade hit a three-point basket at the 7:30 mark to push the Razorbacks’ lead to 52-43.
Wade had scored five points in the previous 8 games - including two he sat out - while going 1 of 6 from the field in 58 minutes.
“He hadn’t played much, and all of a sudden he’s there when it matters,” Anderson said. “That’s the thing I like about the way he just kind of stood there and waited his turn.
“Lo and behold, he makes two free throws for us, plays tremendous defense, and then hits a big three-point shot to kind of open the lid up and we got back off and running.”
Wade also had 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 19 minutes without a turnover.
“It was good for him to come back and start playing the way we know he knows how to play,” Arkansas junior guard Ky Madden said. “I feel like we needed that [Saturday night] from somebody, and Wade stepped up.
“He’s a senior, he’s a good leader on our team, so it was expected.”
Wade had a big enough game that he made an appearance on Arkansas’ postgame radio show.
“I stayed patient and stayed poised and went through my every day routine and had confidence in myself and my teammates making plays, and we did,” Wade said.
The free throws Wade made Saturday night were his first points since Dec. 3, when he hit a three-point basket against Southeastern Louisiana.
“After you make the free throws, it definitely gives you confidence in your shot,” Wade said. “You can feel the rhythm and have a lot more confidence in it the next time you shoot the ball.”
Wade has played 2,327 minutes in 104 games for the Razorbacks, including 62 starts. But Anderson chose not to play him against Clemson or Savannah State earlier this month, the only gamesin Wade’s career in which he didn’t play. He played 11 minutes off the bench in the Razorbacks’ 102-56 victory over Tennessee-Martin on Thursday night and had two steals, but also four fouls.
So why did Anderson decide to play Wade against South Alabama in the second half of a tight game?
“Most times guys get flustered or some guys will just kind of shut it down,” Anderson said. “He’s starting to figure out, ‘I’ve got to fight if I’m going to get out on the floor. I’ve got to compete, and as I’m competing I’ve got to take that same mind-set when I get in the game whether it be for two minutes, four minutes, eight minutes.’ “
Anderson has given 10 players at least one start this season, including Wade.
“You never know with me,” Anderson said of how he distributes starts and playing time. “If that guy is doing some things that are really helping our team, we’re going to put him out there. So, to me, it’s good to see [Wade]respond in a positive way.”
Anderson was asked after the Savannah State game if he worried Wade might be getting down on himself.
“He’s just got to keep working in practice,” Anderson said. “We’ve got some other guys that are playing well, but to me, there’s still an opportunity for a guy of Mardracus’ talent to play. He’s just got to get consistent and play at a level that’s really going to impact our team.
“He’ll have a chance to be in a game and see if he can carry it on from there.”
Sports, Pages 15 on 12/23/2013