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.
Razorbacks are getting on board
NWA Media/MICHAEL WOODS --12/29/2012-- Arkansas guard BJ Young tries to fight off Northwestern State defenders Gary Robertson and DeQuan Hicks for the rebound during the first half of Saturday night's game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell didn’t hesitate when asked after the Razorbacks’ 95-68 victory over Alabama A&M on Dec. 22 where the team needed to make its biggest improvement before SEC play started.
“Finishing off defensive possessions by getting the rebound,” said Powell, a redshirt junior. “Rebounding has been our biggest problem since I’ve been here, to be honest.”
Maybe it’s a problem the Razorbacks are starting solve.
Since being outrebounded 41-26 in an 80-67 loss at No. 2 Michigan on Dec. 8, the Razorbacks have outrebounded their opponents by an average of 11.8 rebounds per game during a four-game winning streak against Alcorn State, Alabama A&M, Robert Morris University and Northwestern (La.) State.
OK, so no one is going to confuse those teams with Michigan. Or Arizona State, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Syracuse, teams which also outrebounded the Razorbacks.
But don’t forgot that in the Razorbacks’ first two games, they were outrebounded 36-23 by Sam Houston State and tied 48-48 by Florida A&M.
By comparison, outrebounding Alcorn State 47-33 and Northwestern State 57-41 looks pretty good for Arkansas, which opens SEC play next week at Texas A&M.
“It’s just a focus,” Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said of the improved rebounding. “I think it’s a commitment by our team.”
The Michigan loss seemed to serve as a wake-up call for the Razorbacks.
“You rebound in the Michigan game, you’re liable to sneak out of there with a win,” Anderson said.
Rebounding has been a focal point in practice, and the Razorbacks have been practicing a lot the past three weeks. When they play Saturday night against Delaware State, it will mark only their fourth game since Dec. 20.
“We can really work hard and push each other,” Arkansas junior guard Mardracus Wade said. “I’m just glad the team is buying into it, the rebounding.”
Powell said Anderson preaches effort and attitude when it comes to getting rebounds.
“If we just give effort, most of the time we’ll come up with it,“ Powell said.
Arkansas 6-10 sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson and 6-3 sophomore guard BJ Young each had a career-high 13 rebounds against Northwestern State. Mickelson’s previous high was eight last season against Grambling State. He averaging 7.7 rebounds the past three games.
“He’s playing more aggressive now,” Powell said. “I guess he’s finally figured out he’s 6-10.”
Mickelson, averaging 4.3 rebounds per game, said he’s starting to play with more confidence in his second season with the Razorbacks.
“I’m just trying to more active,” Mickelson said. “I’m going after every ball, even if it doesn’t look like I can get it. At least I’ll get close to it, and hopefully I can make some kind of play on it.”
Mickelson said the Razorbacks realized they needed to “fix” their rebounding problem after the Michigan game.
“You can play good defense for a while, but if you don’t get the rebound, it’s kind of all for nothing,” he said. “We’ve made it a point to start rebounding a lot better, and we’ve done it so far.”
Powell, who missed all but two games last season because of a knee injury, is averaging a team-high 5.8 rebounds per game. The Razorbacks also have been helped by the addition of junior college transfer Coty Clarke, who is averaging 5.2 rebounds, and with Young averaging 4.7 rebounds.
Powell said having the guards rebound well is key to Arkansas’ defensive philosophy.
“We press a lot, and that causes teams to take a lot of quick jump shots, which turn into long rebounds,” Powell said. “With our guards coming in and picking off some of those long rebounds, that helps us a lot.”
Anderson said he knows he can’t count on Mickelson and Powell — or any other Razorback — to consistently get 13 rebounds a game.
“We’ve got to do it by committee,” Anderson said. “Our guards, our forwards, guys coming off the bench, they’ve got to really put their bodies in there and rebound the basketball.”
Powell said he believes Arkansas can continue to rebound well against SEC opponents.
“I feel like we have the pieces now to be considered a good rebounding team,” he said, “but it comes back to effort and attitude.”
vs. Delaware State
WHEN 7 p.m. Saturday WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 8-4, Delaware State 6-8 SERIES Arkansas leads 4-0 TELEVISION RSN, which includes KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock; KFTA-TV, Channel 24, in Fayetteville, and KAIT-TV, Channel 8, in Jonesboro RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network
Sports, Pages 20 on 01/04/2013