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.
Accuracy awry as SEC arrives
Arkansas forward Bobby Portis pulls up for a jump shot over Florida defender Dorian-Finney-Smith during the second half of Saturday afternoon's game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Kentucky Coach John Calipari praised Arkansas for being “a terrific-shooting team” during Monday’s SEC coaches’ teleconference.
That was Calipari laying it on pretty thick, at least in terms of Arkansas’ shooting in SEC play.
The Razorbacks, who play the No. 13 Wildcats tonight in Walton Arena, are 13th in the SEC in shooting at 36.9 percent (48 of 130) after two conference games. They shot a season-low 36.2 percent (21 of 58) in a 69-53 loss at Texas A&M, then shot 37.5 percent (27 of 72) in an 84-82 overtime loss to Florida at home.
Arkansas shot 49.4 percent in 13 nonconference games when the Razorbacks often feasted on points off of turnovers and getting baskets in transition, opportunities that haven’t been readily available in SEC games.
The Razorbacks scored a combined 11 fast-break points against Texas A&M and Florida and 25 points off 28 turnovers.
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson teams are more familiar with how to defend each other in conference play.
The Razorbacks also are playing bigger and more talented opponents than they faced in most of the nonconference games with the exception of Maui Invitational matchups against California, Minnesota and Gonzaga.
“I think our guys have got to get a little bit more creative,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to create some opportunities in transition and just get in a rhythm.”
Sophomore forward Michael Qualls, Arkansas’ leading scorer at 12.7 points per game, is 3 of 22 from the field in two SEC games, and that includes a last-second three-point basket he hit against Florida.
He was 1 of 12 at Texas A&M.
“Mike’s a slasher, blue-collar kind of guy, and I think he’s got to be engaged with that mind-set,” Anderson said. “Sometimes you start thinking too much, and he’s just got to start playing to his God-given abilities.
“We need him to play well. We need all our guys to play at a high level.”
Arkansas freshman forward Bobby Portis was 21 of 24 from the field in the final three nonconference games - against South Alabama, High Point and Texas-San Antonio- but he’s 9 of 26 (34.6 percent) in SEC play.
Portis, averaging 12. 5 points, showed signs of coming on after halftime against Florida.
He made 5 of 10 in the second half against the Gators, looking for more shots around the basket, after going a combined 4 of 16 at Texas A&M and in the first half of the Florida game.
“Bobby is a guy that I think as experiences come at him, he learns from it,” Anderson said. “A coach can tell you what is going to take place and all that, but until you go through it, then that’s how you learn.
“He’s learning that these guys are bigger and stronger, just as fast and not only that, they’re hitting him. … He’s got to learn how to adjust.
“Good players make adjustments, and Bobby is one of those guys that is a sponge. He’s going to come and ask ‘Hey, Coach, what can I do to get better?’ And he’s going to watch tape to see where he can take advantage of what he brings to the table.”
Arkansas’ shooting has dropped considerably in the two games since it began SEC play: FIRST 13 GAMES (11-2) Field-goal percentage 49.4 Free-throw percentage 71.3 SEC GAMES (0-2) Field-goal percentage 36.9 Free-throw percentage 60.9
Sports, Pages 17 on 01/14/2014