Anderson: Hogs got 'caught up' in early success

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Thursday, December 13, 2018
Mike Anderson, Arkansas head coach, in the second half vs Western Kentucky Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Mike Anderson, Arkansas head coach, in the second half vs Western Kentucky Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Winners of six consecutive games since a season-opening loss to Texas entering last Saturday, Arkansas may have been riding a bit too high if you ask Mike Anderson.

Those six wins included a nailbiter against Indiana - arguably a top-25 team - at home, a 121-point explosion against Florida International and the second-best performance in terms of offensive efficiency (139.1) away from Bud Walton Arena of Anderson's tenure.

But none of that mattered to Western Kentucky, and the Hilltoppers, limping in off a loss to Missouri State just days before, snapped the young Razorbacks back to reality with a somewhat stunning 78-77 road win. There are lessons to be learned from every game, Anderson said Thursday, and his primary message has been consistency.

"Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you is you have success and you get that pat on the back," he said. "I thought we got caught up in that. So we’ve used this time (finals week) to kind of ground them and get back to doing the things we were doing early that put us in a position to have a six-game winning streak and play really good basketball."

Last week was Arkansas' roughest defensive stretch of the young season, giving up 1.06 points per possession at Colorado State in a win and a season-worst 1.10 PPP to Western Kentucky. Over their first six games, the Razorbacks had not allowed more than .95 PPP in a game.

Western Kentucky took advantage of Arkansas' at-times lackluster defense as well and became the first team since Indiana to shoot better than 40 percent from the floor in the win. The Hilltoppers also buried nine 3-pointers just days after the Rams knocked down 11.

Anderson said he didn't like the fact that Western Kentucky's pace lulled the Razorbacks into a largely half-court game either and, this week, hoped practice time helped his team re-establish its defensive identity.

"Our pressure defense, even in the half court, we didn't get after it, so I think from that standpoint I think the lesson learned is you can't just show up no matter who you play," Anderson added. "You've got to come with it each and every game.

"The pat on the back can set you back. I thought our intensity was not to my liking in terms of how we played. I thought we kind of played at their tempo. We always talk about creating havoc and not letting people do what they want to do."

Saturday, Arkansas has a strong chance of regaining its footing against UT-San Antonio in North Little Rock. The Roadrunners (3-6) have won three of their last four games, including a win over Florida Gulf Coast. UTSA ranks in the top 40 nationally in average time of possession, according to KenPom, but sits well outside the top 300 in both effective field goal percentage and 2-point field goal percentage.

UTSA is led offensively by guards Keaton Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson, who average 19.6 and 18.7 points per game, respectively. Jackson is instant offense for the Roadrunners, scoring 112 points in 117 minutes played this season.

"We approach this game as we approach any other game," Daniel Gafford said Thursday. "We’ve got to come out and play our best. We can’t just, you know, go out and, oh, a team is 3-6, and just play on their level. We’ve got to play beyond their level. We’ve got to go to another level that we haven’t been to before.

"If we don’t get to that certain level and play at their level it might turn out in another loss like Western Kentucky did."

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