Four-Point Play:

Analysis: Darious Hall's value as starter, pick-and-roll, more

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Arkansas forward Darious Hall points to the crowd during a game against Missouri on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas forward Darious Hall points to the crowd during a game against Missouri on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Fayetteville.

Hall brings value in first start

Arkansas’ defense through four SEC games was a problem. The Razorbacks allowed 1.15 points per possession and opponents shot better than 54 percent inside the 3-point line in those contests.

Mike Anderson inserting Darious Hall into the starting lineup in place of Daryl Macon was purely a tactic to get things right on the defensive end from the jump, and it worked against Missouri.

Missouri averaged less than one point per possession in Hall’s 31 defensive trips in the win. The Tigers’ percentage on 2-point looks dwindled to 46.2 percent as well, which is a figure you’ll live with.

The Beard-Barford-Hall-Thomas-Gafford lineup that Anderson opened the night with had its flaws, particularly on offense. Without Macon, the Razorbacks’ perimeter shooting took a hit. But Anderson knew the key to grabbing a much-needed win would begin and end in preventing a start similar to Tennessee, Auburn and LSU.

The starting five limited Missouri to .67 PPP in 12 possessions together and forced five turnovers, including a pair of walks when Arkansas pressured dribble handoffs and ballscreens with doubles and high hands.

The Tigers had a pair of scoring droughts of 2:47 or greater before cracking 10 points nearly midway through the first half. But by that point, Hall had provided Arkansas with a huge lift offensively, scoring eight straight points by simply being active, reading ball movement and slipping to open areas.

Hall proved during his spurt the offense can work if you cut with purpose. Below is my favorite of Hall’s buckets, and everything started on the defensive end.

Arkansas pressured Missouri out as far as the 28-foot marker, forced a deep 3, Macon rebounded and hit Trey Thompson with a long outlet pass. Understanding eyes shifted to Thompson in the short corner on the catch, Hall cut right off the big man’s hip, had his head up anticipating a feed and was rewarded.

Getting your first starting nod in a Saturday SEC home game on national television is a huge moment for a freshman. Not to mention Arkansas was attempting to avoid its first four-game losing streak under Anderson and back-to-back home losses, which is unheard of.

The staff’s trust in Hall is growing, evidenced by his minutes increase of late. And I’m certain there was some sort of a pre-game talk between Anderson and Hall about staying within himself and not pressing despite Arkansas’ circumstances.

During the first half, the ESPN2 broadcast picked up a terrific moment between the two. During a break in the action, Anderson called Hall over to his coach’s box. He placed the back of his hand on the Little Rock native’s chest and said, “Let me check your heart.”

The line drew a smile from Hall, which is exactly what the coach had hoped for. When asked about the exchange Monday, Anderson said the message had its desired effect.

“Calming him down is basically what it was. I was trying to be funny, really,” he said with a smile. “I thought I was a little funny about it. That’s how he took it because he looked at me like, ‘Coach, are you tripping? Are you crazy?’ It speaks volumes, I think, to him because he took it the right way.”

Following the exchange, Hall went on his 8-0 run to put Arkansas up double figures for the first time since the conference opener.

Often times, coaches will use a timeout in hopes of breaking an opponent’s run and restoring a little order. Cuonzo Martin burned one after Hall’s second score, but it didn’t deter the freshman. He came out of the break with the same energy and added two more, including a dunk off a sweet dime from Macon.

Then, Hall added to Arkansas’ lead in the final seconds of the first half when he crashed the offensive glass and was undercut by a Missouri defender. He was everywhere.

Anton Beard said Monday that Hall is the most energetic player he’s ever seen. Anderson declined to say if Hall would start at Florida, but Arkansas could certainly use more of what it got Saturday.

It was Day Day's day.

LSU plays to biggest strength

After watching Tremont Waters pick apart Arkansas' defense last Wednesday I wrote that the 5-11 guard should at least be in early discussions for SEC Freshman of the Year. He's been that good so far.

Waters finished with eight assists that directly resulted in 19 points, and time after time set up teammates for great, open looks off dribble penetration and cross-court passes that forced Arkansas to react and properly rotate.

LSU isn't a great 3-point shooting team - ninth best in the SEC at 30.5 percent - but the Tigers couldn't help but make the wide open looks they got against Arkansas. Will Wade's club made just four 3s in the win, and Waters assisted on three - all uncontested.

Here's a look at one of the triples:

Arkansas' communication was poor in this sequence. Anton Beard and Jaylen Barford stand still waiting on the other to make a play while Skylar Mays, LSU's second-best 3-point shooter, steps into the shot as easily as he would in pre-game warmups.

While LSU might not light teams up from beyond the arc, it has the ability to dominate them inside it, and that's exactly what happened last week. LSU has hit 58.7 percent of 2-point shots this season, placing them seventh nationally alongside powers like Villanova, Gonzaga and Duke.

That's elite stuff, and a strong mark that largely helps offset any issues from distance.

LSU was 25 of 37 on 2-point field goals against the Hogs, and 20 of 25 at the rim. The most troubling stat to me was Arkansas allowing 21 layups, and the biggest headscratcher of all came when Arkansas was beaten down the floor following a C.J. Jones airball that sailed out of bounds. That's a dead ball situation. Can't happen.

Postgame, Mike Anderson was frustrated with Arkansas' effort defensively, and vowed to turn things around.

We saw a much better performance on that end against Missouri, granted it's a team much more reliant on the 3-point shot than LSU.

Missouri has taken at least 19 3s in each game this season - 35 vs. Green Bay - and four times launched more 3-point attempts than 2s. Twenty-nine of the Tigers' 50 shots came from behind the arc Saturday.

Of Missouri's 21 2-point looks over the weekend, it converted just 10 - Jontay Porter, Jeremiah Tilmon and Kevin Puryear were 2 of 9 - and 5 of 9 at the rim. That's a drastic improvement from LSU and stems from quality contests and containing ballhandlers.

Wednesday, Arkansas faces another great playmaking guard in Florida's Chris Chiozza, who assists on one-third of the Gators' scores. We'll see if Arkansas learns from its mistakes against Tremont Waters and carries some of those adjustments into Gainesville against a guard that's been around the block a few times.

Arkansas' pick-and-roll offense

Daniel Gafford had been used in ballscreens just twice prior to the final four minutes against Missouri.

In the first half, he and Daryl Macon executed beautifully, and the senior guard hit Gafford on an alley-oop. Pretty simple score that easily could have been an and-1 as Jontay Porter slid underneath on the recover. Too late.

For the pick-and-roll to work Arkansas has to have good spacing, and it did on Gafford's first oop.

At the four minute mark in the second half, though, there was a concerted effort to use Gafford in more pick-and-roll action and it paid huge dividends, digging Arkansas out of a four-point hole.

Watching the replay, you can see TJ Cleveland and Melvin Watkins directing players to certain spots on the floor to give the duo plenty of room to operate.

Macon, who finished with eight assists in the win, found Gafford for scores three times in the final four minutes. The action forced freshman Jeremiah Tilmon into a pair of uncomfortable positions, Jontay Porter into another and, with Tigers guards accounting for shooters on the perimeter, left the lane largely vacated.

Here, Porter also frees up Gafford's path to the rim by stepping out on Macon for a split second for fear of the 3. And once Macon delivers the pass, Porter is a step out of position and unable to get a hand on the entry:

After the win, Macon elaborated on the pressure he and Gafford's PnR game creates for teams, saying it's something he thinks Arkansas should do more often. I'm with him. He also mentioned that Gafford approached him with the idea in the second half, which is great on the freshman's part to relay what he's seeing.

On the go-ahead bucket, you can see Tilmon momentarily lose sight of Gafford. All it took at that point was a pass only Gafford could go get. Tilmon reacts to the pass, tries to contest and winds up fouling out of the game.

The final time Macon and Gafford ran this action Arkansas got what it wanted, but Macon instead danced on the perimeter and pulled up for a 3 with the much longer Kevin Puryear in his face. Gafford had Macon's initial defender pinned on his outside hip, but the entry never came.

The action was so effective leading up to that point I didn't understand why Macon didn't dump it down to Gafford with a chance to put Missouri away. Some have said Gafford would have been fouled on the catch and forced to go to the line. But even with a split in that situation - Gafford was 3 of 4 at the line - the worst case scenario wouldn't have had Arkansas potentially losing on Jordan Geist's 3 at the buzzer.

I think we're almost all in agreement that Gafford should be heavily involved in Arkansas' pick-and-roll game, whether it be with Macon or Jaylen Barford. Macon is the better passer of the two, but both are solid 3-point shooters, so let the defense pick its poison.

Golden distractions

In last week's column I touched a little bit on different things we've seen from the Arkansas crowd lately.

First, Sharkansas made its debut against Minnesota. Then, we were introduced to Arkansas' trio of golden statues, which are at once creepy and kind of interesting. Reminds me of my one trip to New Orleans.

The television broadcast ate it up and even brought them courtside for a special segment on how the Razorbacks' offense operated at a higher level when players weren't statue-esque and instead cut and moved with purpose.

Beyond getting some face time on a national broadcast, they can be found randomly standing in stairways during timeouts as well as on the floor attempting to distract opposing free throw shooters.

Let's be honest, we'd all be a little weirded out by that the first time around.

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