Anderson implores Hogs to up defense

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson reacts to a play during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Auburn, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Auburn, Ala. Auburn won 88-77. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson reacts to a play during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Auburn, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Auburn, Ala. Auburn won 88-77. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks are averaging 88.5 points per game to lead the SEC in scoring, but Coach Mike Anderson isn't impressed.

After the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville lost on the road at Mississippi State 78-75 and Auburn 88-77 last week, Anderson said defense must be his team's focus going into tonight's game against LSU at Walton Arena.

"Trust me," Anderson said before Monday's practice, "we're going to ramp it up."

Anderson said his message to the Razorbacks (11-4, 1-2 SEC) is that they have to win with defense, not offense.

"That's got to be the attitude," he said. "We've got to be more defensive-minded, and getting stops and creating havoc. That's going to be our aim as we get ready to play this game."

LSU (10-4, 1-1) has some notable victories away from home under first-year Coach Will Wade. The Tigers beat Michigan 77-75 at the Maui Invitational; beat Houston, a team that beat Arkansas 91-65 at home, 80-77 in the Maravich Assembly Center; won 71-61 at Memphis; and took a 69-68 victory at Texas A&M.

"Will Wade has done a good job of getting those kids to play at a high level," Anderson said. "They've played a lot of tough games and they've played well."

Wade said not to get too carried away with the Tigers' 3-2 record in Maui and on the road.

"We've been blasted away from home, too," Wade said, referring to losses to Notre Dame 92-53 and Marquette 94-84 in Maui. "But we want to be a team that's got some grittiness and got some toughness to us where we're able to win on the road."

The Razorbacks are 103-15 in Walton Arena in Anderson's seven seasons as coach, including 8-0 this season.

"Arkansas is going to present a huge challenge for us, just with the environment there at Bud Walton Arena," Wade said. "Our guys have been fairly solid on the road so far, but it'll take our best effort away from Baton Rouge this season to give us a chance in this Arkansas game."

Arkansas has lost back-to-back games for the first time season. The Razorbacks haven't lost three consecutive games since the 2015-2016 season.

"Every game is a big game as we talk about winning a conference championship," Anderson said. "You've got to be able to take care of home and go out and steal some games on the road.

"We've had some opportunities and we'll have more. But it's early on. It's three games into league play."

Mississippi State shot 50 percent in the second half (14 of 28) when the Bulldogs rallied to overcome a 50-42 Arkansas lead. Auburn shot 51.7 percent (30 of 58) and hit 11 of 20 three-pointers against the Razorbacks.

"We have to score on the other end, too, but we have to be able to stop people," Anderson said. "We haven't done that efficiently enough as we got into conference play."

LSU is shooting 37.5 percent (123 of 328) on three-pointers.

"We've just got to be there with those shooters and make them drivers," Anderson said. "To me, it's about defense. Having that third and fourth and fifth effort. That's what we've not been getting.

"You've got to have guys who aren't tired, and we've been having some guys out there that are spent. That's why I think they're not making that extra effort that you've got to have."

Anderson said starting senior guards Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford and Anton Beard have been playing too many minutes for the Razorbacks, especially in conference games.

Macon is averaging 38.7 minutes, Barford 35.3 and Beard 32.3 in SEC play. Freshman forward Daniel Gafford is averaging 27.3 minutes. Their minutes include a 95-93 overtime victory against No. 24 Tennessee.

"If we're going to be the efficient team defensively and offensively, be in attack mode, that's what has to happen," Anderson said of playing the starters fewer minutes. "Early in the year, I think the reason those guys were efficient was because they had guys coming in and giving them breathers -- and guys that came in and actually took the tempo up."

Anderson said the Razorbacks need to get more minutes for their bench players, including guards C.J. Jones and Darious Hall, and forwards Trey Thompson, Adrio Bailey and Arlando Cook.

Hall, a freshman from Little Rock, played a season-high 21 minutes off the bench at Auburn and had 7 points and 6 rebounds while shooting 3 of 3 from the field, but Jones played a season-low three minutes after playing 10 at Mississippi State.

"They have to play," Anderson said of Hall and Jones. "They have to come out and produce."

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