Razorbacks run into a trend they like

By: Nate Allen
Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Arkansas' Kikko Haydar tries to rally the team against Missouri late in the first half Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Anthony Reyes
Arkansas' Kikko Haydar tries to rally the team against Missouri late in the first half Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE - For much of the early basketball season, one of their co-captains implied, the Razorbacks’ ran on their opponents’ clock.

The Razorbacks have been running their own clock for the past several games, senior co-captain Kikko Haydar said Monday on Coach Mike Anderson’s weekly radio show.

“I think we have found our identity,” Haydar said leading into tonight’s SEC game against South Carolina at Walton Arena. “We weren’t running early on in the season.”

Well, they were running. It just wasn’t at the right pace.

“We don’t want to play like everybody else,” Haydar said. “We are not really built to come down and run sets and play like everybody else.”

Since a Feb. 1 loss at LSU, which was marked with a big second-half Arkansas comeback, the Razorbacks (16-7, 5-7 SEC) have defeated Alabama and LSU at Walton Arena, won at Vanderbilt, and came within a missed basket of defeating Missouri.

Haydar credited Anderson using concentrated practice periods devoted to getting the ball up and down the court for making a difference. Haydar said it started with an all-out minute that would be repeated if not sufficiently run all out. The periods expanded incrementally from two minutes to five minutes, Haydar said, and all were repeated if not up to Anderson’s expectations on both ends of the court.

Especially defense.

Defense triggers the running game that Anderson learned playing for Nolan Richardson at Tulsa and helped coach for 17 years under Richardson at Arkansas before successfully imparting his version of Richardson’s game as a head coach at Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri. Anderson is in his third season of trying to instill it in an Arkansas program long fallen on hard times.

Defense first is so ingrained that Haydar, the 5-10 Fayetteville High graduate who is a walk-on for the basketball team, dismisses his team-leading three-point shooting percentage of 47 percent ( 9 of 19).

“My job is just to come in and harass somebody,” Haydar said. “If I am fortunate enough to come in and get an open shot, hopefully I knock it down and get right back on defense. I don’t think about offense too much. I just try to bring some energy and get everybody else playing hard and get some deflections and stuff like that.”

The energy is wasted if the plays aren’t finished.

“Guys are making plays,” Haydar said. “Look at the play of Ky Madden and Bobby Portis, Michael Qualls and Coty Clarke. Everybody is playing very well. We are definitely trending in the right direction.”

Of course, many a team in the Razorbacks’ rebuilding stage fancy they have turned a corner only to stumble over a hurdle like South Carolina ( 3-9 in the SEC) that they presumed they would clear.

“We are not looking too far ahead,” Haydar said. “We are looking one game at a time, and that game is South Carolina. Hopefully we can keep the trend that we are on.”

Sports, Pages 15 on 02/19/2014