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.
SEC BASKETBALL AUBURN AT ARKANSAS:
A little help, please
BJ Young is leading Arkansas with 17.3 points per game this season.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas’ men’s basketball team has yet to break into the 60s in SEC play.
The Razorbacks (10-5, 1-1) are averaging 53.5 points in their first two conference games after losing at Texas A&M 69-51 and beating Vanderbilt 56-33 at home.
“We’ve got to get some more productivity,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “We’ve got to have a third scorer and a fourth scorer.”
Sophomore guard BJ Young (17.1 points per game) and junior forward Marshawn Powell are Arkansas’ top two scorers. Either Young (8 games) or Powell (6 games) have led Arkansas in scoring every game since junior forward Coty Clarke had a team-high 20 points in the opener against Sam Houston State.
Powell came back to score 17 points against Vanderbilt after being held scoreless in 12 foul-plagued minutes at Texas A&M. Young overcame first-half foul trouble against Vanderbilt to score 12 of 14 points in the second half after leading the Razorbacks with 13 points at Texas A&M.
No other Razorback is averaging more than 5.0 points in SEC play going into tonight’s game against
Arkansas (10-5, 1-1 SEC) vs. Auburn (8-7, 2-0)
WHEN: 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Bud Walton Arena
TV: SEC Network
Auburn (8-7, 2-0) at Walton Arena. “You’re not going to get any W’s if that continues,” Powell said. Anderson said he’s confident Arkansas has players to complement Young and Powell as scorers, including Clarke, sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson, junior guard Mardracus Wade and freshman guard Anthlon Bell.
“We have guys that are capable,” Anderson said. “It’s just a matter of going out and doing it on a consistent basis.”
Wade is averaging 7.4 points and is shooting 32.5 percent on three-point attempts (13 of 40) after averaging 10.8 points and shooting 47.6 percent on three-pointers (70 of 147) last season. Powell, who missed all but the first two games last season because of a knee injury, wondered if his return has impacted Wade’s aggressiveness on offense.
“I don’t know if he secondguesses himself, but he does a lot more pump-faking than he needs to,” Powell said. “I’m telling him during the game, ‘Just shoot the ball, let the ball go. If you miss it, you miss it. If you make it, we need it.’
“He has it in him. We’ve all seen it. We’re just waiting on it.”
Powell said the Razorbacks need to keep encouraging Wade.
“ ‘I’ve told Mardracus ‘You’ve got to play with confidence. Play as if you’re the best player on the court and you’re the best shooter on the court. If you believe you’re the best shooter on the court, it’s going to show,’ ” Powell said.
Young said he knows that with Wade’s work ethic in practice, his shooting percentage will go up if he’ll take more three-pointers.
“Those shots are there for him,” Young said. “We want him to keep taking those shots because we know at big moments he can make those.”
Wade said he hopes to have a more significant role after he played 12 minutes off the bench in the first half against Vanderbilt, ending a streak of 46 consecutive starts.
“A lot of that is kind of on me,” Wade said of his offensive struggles. “I’ve got to stay in the gym and continue to work and try to get better and just come out there and produce. I know I will because I’m that type of player.
“I work hard. I don’t get down too much on myself. I’m like a gym rat. I’m always going to be in here to get better and help my team out any way I can.”
Anderson said Wade stayed on the bench in the second half against Vanderbilt because other Razorbacks were playing better.
“I think he’s just got to start performing, that’s all,” Anderson said. “Bring some better practices that can take him into the game.”
Mickelson, like Wade, is averaging 7.4 points overall and 5.0 in SEC games.
“We’ve got to do a better job of giving Hunter confidence and letting him work, but also Hunter has to do a better job of demanding the ball,” Powell said. “If you want the ball, don’t just sit there with your hand up. Demand it — give me the ball — and make good things happen when you do get it.
“It’s all about building confidence and trust in all of us.”
Anderson said it also would help the Razorbacks to give Powell the ball more. He hit 8 of 9 shots against Vanderbilt, including 6 of 6 in the first half, but the Razorbacks failed to pass him the ball on many possessions.
“He probably should have touched it a little bit more in the second half,” Anderson said. “We just need to understand that and make that take place.”
The Razorbacks also need to do a better job of finishing on fast breaks, Anderson said. That is especially crucial considering they shot 18.2 percent on three-pointers (6 of 33) against Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.
“We need to score in transition, fill the lanes and run,” Young said. “That will make it a lot easier for another option to open up for us.”
Powell said he is confident Arkansas, which is averaging 79.0 points on the season, can increase its production in SEC games.
“In league play, it’s harder, because everything amps up,” Powell said. “Everybody has a better scouting report on you. It’s kind of difficult to say, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to score 80 points tonight, 70 points tonight.’
“It’s conference play, and we may need to win by scoring in the low 60s or 50s. As long we get the W, right?”
Sports, Pages 17 on 01/16/2013