Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Bell shooting for more
Freshman Anthlon Bell has averaged 12.5 minutes in two SEC games.
Bell has attempted 17 3-pointers in Arkansas' last three games
He is averaging 12.5 minutes per game in SEC play
Marshawn Powell and BJ Young are averaging 31.4 of Arkansas' 79 points per game
FAYETTEVILLE Despite early-season struggles, the message to Arkansas freshman Anthlon Bell was simple: keep shooting.
The guard was talked up by Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson as the team’s best perimeter shooter in the preseason and substantiated his coach’s claims in a pair of exhibition games. As the opponents got tougher, though, the Bartlett, Tenn. native became less of a factor.
He combined for only 13 points in games against Arizona State, Wisconsin, Syracuse and Oklahoma, and didn’t score in three minutes of play at Michigan.
"It was just a matter of him bringing it to the game," Anderson said. "If you see practice, he has a rhythm. As a guy who shoots the basketball, he's not afraid. I think he's taking good shots. He's going to take a bad one every now and then, but I think our guys have confidence in him. He puts himself in position to get good shots.
"I think he's about to burst onto the scene."
After scoring a career-high 16 points in a win over Longwood in the second game of the season, Bell didn’t score more than five points until the Razorbacks beat Delaware State earlier this month. In that game he scored 12 points, knocking down four 3-point shots.
That performance earned him more playing time. After averaging less than seven minutes per game in December, he has averaged 12.5 minutes in a pair of conference games.
He made three 3-pointers in a loss to Texas A&M last week and missed all five of his attempts in a win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Despite his struggles, he obeyed his coaches and kept shooting.
“All the shots felt good, but they just weren’t falling,” Bell said. “The day before I stayed for an hour and a half after practice trying to make 10 shots in a row and my hand was kind of hurting me, so I don’t know if that affected me or not.
“The Texas A&M game helped my confidence a lot to show I can play with the other kids in the SEC.”
Bell’s evolving confidence and reputation as the team’s best shooter could make him Arkansas’ most likely candidate for a third consistent scorer behind BJ Young and Marshawn Powell moving forward. Those two are averaging close to 32 points per game combined for the Razorbacks, with no other player on the roster averaging more than Hunter Mickelson’s 7.4.
Arkansas has struggled to score in SEC games, averaging 53.5 points while splitting its two games. Plagued by foul trouble and turnovers, Powell was held scoreless in the loss to the Aggies and 12 of Young’s 14 points against Vanderbilt came during a five-minute stretch immediately after halftime.
“We really don’t worry about where the scoring comes from,” Young said. “…Other guys are developing and turning into players who can put the ball into the hole.
“We don’t care if he misses 100, we want him to shoot the 101st three. We give him confidence to keep shooting the basketball and we like the way he’s been playing lately for us.”