Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
40 minutes of dull won’t cut it for Arkansas
Arkansas forward Hunter Mickelson, second from left, loses the ball as he tries to shoot among Vanderbilt defenders Josh Henderson (40), Dai-Jon Parker (24) and Kevin Bright, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
LITTLE ROCK Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tenn., is a tough place to get a victory for visiting teams.
The court is a huge, elevated stage and teams sit in the end zones, so coaches have to try and get their timeouts when their team is closest to the bench.
None of that had anything to do with the Arkansas Razorbacks against Vanderbilt on Saturday.
After playing the fastest 40 minutes of basketball Tuesday against Florida, at home, and putting an old fashioned whipping on the No. 2 Gators, they played the dullest 20 minutes of basketball and trailed at the half, 35-24.
The Hogs shot 26.9 percent from the floor on 7 of 26 attempts (the starters were 2of 10) and had 10 rebounds to Vandy’s 16.
Granted, Marshawn Powell picked up two quick fouls and missed more than 17 minutes, but it still looked like the Arkansas players were sleepwalking with visions of orange and blue stuck in their heads.
Coach Mike Anderson had a serious enough talk to his team at halftime that everyone wanted to start because they didn’t have much left to sit on.
The Razorbacks came out fired up and with Powell leading the way closed it to 43-38 with 11:45 to play, and it looked like the momentum had taken a cardinal-colored swing.
Because of Arkansas’ tenacious defense, the Commodores were not getting many shots, six during the Hogs’ run, and missing on the few openings they did get.
Everything that had been missing from the first half for the Hogs was there in those first nine minutes, but then it turned bad in a hurry, just as it did against South Carolina a couple weeks back.
Great teams win on the road.
Teams who win on the road have great on-court leadership.
They have a Lee Mayberry or Corey Beck, who set the point-guard standard at Arkansas.
Mayberry and Beck were totally unselfish team players who helped take the Razorbacks program to another level.
They always found the high-percentage shot.
Mayberry led with a quiet but forceful voice. Beck was more animated.
Their teammates listened to them. They respected them.
This Arkansas team doesn’t have that same chemistry.
That’s definitely not to point a finger at BJ Young, who hasn’t been starting as Anderson looks for the right chemistry and defensive effort from his starters.
Young is just one of the players not demonstrating enough leadership, but he’s one of the most gifted players and is probably playing his last season as a Razorback.
It was almost mind-boggling to watch the effort Saturday against a very mildly talented Vanderbilt team after witnessing the manhandling of Florida four days earlier.
A 10-year-old could see they weren’t playing well Saturday.
There was no excuse for a team that can beat Florida to score only 49 points, a season low, and lose to the Commodores 67-49.
It is almost as if the Hogs don’t expect to win on the road, and that goes back to on-court leadership.
The trappings of Memorial Gymnasium had nothing to do with the lack of effort, focus and concentration by the Razorbacks on Saturday.
They might not be a great team like those in the 1990s, but they are better than they played Saturday.
For them to have any shot at the NCAA Tournament, other than winning the SEC Tournament, they have to put it together now.
They need to pick up the pace on defense for 40 minutes - it was never called 20 minutes of hell - and play like a team.
Sports, Pages 23 on 02/10/2013