Razorbacks shooting themselves in foot

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell scored 22 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, despite the Razorbacks' struggles in their 75-54 loss to South Carolina.
Photo by The Associated Press
Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell scored 22 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, despite the Razorbacks' struggles in their 75-54 loss to South Carolina.

— It was a monumental collapse, a little like watching a 100-car train derail in real time.

The Arkansas Razorbacks opened the game not only looking like an NCAA Tournament team, but a No. 7 or No. 8 seed.

They looked like they were picking up where they left off after their trouncing of Mississippi State last Wednesday at Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

For more than the opening four minutes, it would have been easy to believe this team had turned a corner as it looked like the Razorbacks were going to humiliate the South Carolina Gamecocks and pick up a huge conference road victory.

For the remainder of the first half, they looked like they might have struggled to beat Hall High.

After leading 15-3, Arkansas suffered through a 31-point swing and trailed by as many as 19 before losing 75-54.

Early, the Hogs’ defense was too much for the Gamecocks with seven of Arkansas’ first 15 points coming off turnovers. Then South Carolina settled down and started to protect the ball, and with Arkansas’ perimeter defense softer than the Gamecocks’ non-conference schedule, it became a scoring marathon for the home team.

South Carolina made seven of its first 10 three pointers and 17 of its first 29 shots. In the second half, the Gamecocks attempted only two three-pointers.

Arkansas, on the other hand, went more than 15 minutes in the opening half with just one field goal.

It put up enough bricks from the outside to build that practice facility that is in the planning.

It isn’t that the Razorbacks don’t have shooters; they have too many who believe they are. What they don’t have are players who can consistently make them.

Arkansas’ shot selection wasn’t good, and too often it was without apparent thought, except for Marshawn Powell, who didn’t have nearly enough touches in the first half.

Whenever you pass up an open three to try a much more difficult two-pointer, it probably isn’t going to be a great day. But it might be up to the players to look inside more, too.

Powell took five shots in the first half, made three, and Hunter Mickelson was 2 of 4. Most of the rest of the 23 shots were jumpers, and only 3 of 16 found net.

Powell finished with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting with 13 rebounds and 3 blocks. The rest of the team was 12 of 47 from the field, and that won’t win SEC games regardless of where you play.

It was not the scheme. It was not a lack of preparation that set the tone for the loss.

It was a lack of execution, and that falls on the shoulders of the guys on the floor, not on Mike Anderson, who did everything but pull on a uniform and lead by example.

He swapped players faster than a fantasy football owner on too much caffeine.

He searched for answers even when the questions were coming at him faster than the last minute of the Wonderlic test.

Sure, he likes to give his players the green light to shoot, but too often Saturday they were shooting when the light was clearly a caution light.

Rebounding was almost nonexistent as well. Nolan Richardson always said players have to go get the ball, and Powell was clearly the only one active enough as he had half of the Razorbacks’ total rebounds.

Obviously, Anderson still doesn’t have enough of his type of players to trap and force enough turnovers, and South Carolina found a way to make the Hogs pay for soft traps by scoring.

It didn’t help that leading scorer BJ Young had a dismal game, hitting 3 of 12 shots. He’s half of the dynamic scoring duo along with Powell, who had another very good game.

The Hogs settled down a little in the second half, but the first half had obviously put them in too much of a hole and left them a little shell-shocked.

They will need to find a way to win a road game, and obviously they didn’t Saturday.

Anderson will bring his team home, regroup and come back fighting.

Sports, Pages 21 on 01/27/2013