Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Arkansas shoots for extra offense
Arkansas' Mardracus Wade (1) smiles after a made free-throw during the first half an NCAA college basketball game against Florida in Fayetteville, Ark., Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE Florida Coach Billy Donovan’s response to a question about Arkansas’ three-point shooting Monday seemed to portend what was in store for his Gators the following night.
Donovan was asked on the SEC coaches teleconference whether Arkansas’ 24 percent shooting from three-point range in SEC games would afford his team the ability to stack its defense inside the three-point line.
“I think against any team it’s dangerous to do that because certainly teams are capable,” Donovan said. “They are a very capable three-point shooting team and I think you have seen that before in the past with them.”
The Razorbacks enjoyed a blast from their past in the first half against Florida, burying three-pointers on their first two possessions for a 6-0 start that energized the Walton Arena crowd and set the tone. Arkansas made 7 of 9 from beyond the three-point line in the first 10:17 to amass a 36-13 lead that the Gators were never able to whittle to fewer than 10 points in the Razorbacks’ 80-69 victory.
Arkansas finished 8 of 18 from three-point range against Florida, reversing for one night a troubling slide in an area that plays a prominent role in Coach Mike Anderson’s pressing, running style.
Mardracus Wade, whose 47.6 percent shooting from three-point range led the SEC last season, made two early three-pointers to back Marshawn Powell’s game opening three-point shot. BJ Young also hit two three-pointers in the opening half and forward Michael Qualls hit his first of the year. When a Florida defender backed off Jacorey Williams on the right wing and challenged him to take a three, Williams obliged for a 29-13 Arkansas lead.
Young and Wade made two three-pointers each, only the second time in conference play that two Arkansas guards have done that.
“They look more relaxed,” Anderson said of Young and Wade. “They look more comfortable. I think right now they feel a lot more comfortable.”
Wade, who had been in a 4-of-25 slump from three point range, said he knows the team needs him to be more of a consistent threat.
“I just caught it and shot it,” Wade said of his shooting Tuesday. “That’s what I need to be doing and should’ve been doing, just catching and shooting in rhythm. It was in the flow of the offense.”
Young has emerged from an 0-for-13 stretch on three pointers by making 4 of 7 in the past two games.
“I’ve been shooting a lot of threes in the gym and maybe I’ve been able to calm myself down a little bit,” Young said.
Anderson said the Razorbacks’ three-point shooting Tuesday enlivened the crowd and added more frenzy to the team’s half-court pressure, which forced 16 Florida turnovers.
“It’s good to see them out there having fun,” Anderson said.
It has been a strange season for Arkansas’ three-point shooting, including its dreadful 6-of-33 start (18.2 percent) in conference play.
The team’s best three point shooter has been Powell (21 of 46, 45.7 percent). Guard Kikko Haydar started off hot from three-point range and was 16 of 31 (51.6 percent) through 16 games before hitting a skid in which he’s made just two of his past 14. Haydar is at an even 40 percent heading into Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt.
Wade and fellow guards Young, Rickey Scott, Ky Madden, Anthlon Bell and Dee Wagner have struggled with three-point shooting most of the season. Only Wagner (33.3 percent) and Scott (31.6 percent) are shooting better than 30 percent from that group. Bell, a freshman who has attempted the second most three-pointers on the team despite ranking 12th in minutes played, has shown flashes - a 7-of-12 effort vs. Delaware State and Texas A&M - but he’s just 3 of 17 since the conference opener, with all the makes coming in a 3-of-5 performance in a rout of Mississippi State.
ARKANSAS AT VANDERBILT
WHEN 12:30 p.m. Central Saturday WHERE Memorial Gymnasium, Nashville, Tenn.
TV KATV, Channel 7, Little Rock; KHBS/KHOG, Channel 40/29, Fayetteville; KAIT, Channel 8, Jonesboro RADIO Razorback Sports Network
Sports, Pages 19 on 02/08/2013