Joe's confidence 'soaring' with freshman record in sight

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2019
Isaiah Joe, Arkansas guard, in the first half vs Vanderbilt Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Isaiah Joe, Arkansas guard, in the first half vs Vanderbilt Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson wasn't quite sure what to say Thursday when asked what thoughts run through his mind when freshman guard Isaiah Joe goes on a long-distance shooting spree as he did Tuesday night.

Joe, who finished with 18 points on 6-of-10 from 3-point range in the Razorbacks' narrow 69-66 win over Vanderbilt, knocked down four 3-pointers over a two-minute, 25-second span to close out the first half and pull Arkansas out of a 10-point hole. He then knocked down his final triple less than three minutes into the second half.

“Good shooter," Anderson said smiling. "I’ve seen him do it in practice. He makes multiple shots, so ‘keep it up,’ I guess. ‘Keep shooting,’ that’s a good answer.”

Over his tenure at Arkansas, Anderson has never had a player make six or more 3-pointers in a game with greater frequency than Joe, the former Fort Smith Northside star who was given the blessing by his high school coach as a sophomore to shoot once he crossed halfcourt.

Just 22 games into his career, Joe has hit six-plus 3s in a game four times and done so efficiently.

Former Razorbacks guard Anthlon Bell did it three times over the span of three seasons, Daryl Macon did it twice over a two-season span and Dusty Hannahs once in his two years at Arkansas. Perhaps what has been so impressive about Joe's success from distance is that he reached that mark three times in the first half of his first run through the SEC.

Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin and Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew both had glowing reviews for Joe after he torched their teams for a combined 41 points on 55 percent from 3-point range. Martin went as far as to say he fully understood Joe was talented when watching him on film, but those expectations were exceeded in person. Drew said Joe "makes it look easy."

"He’s an elite shooter, he has such a soft touch, and he gets it off very quick," Drew added. "You see it on film and you try to stop it ... but it’s not easy what he’s doing. He’s that good."

After dropping 23 points on Missouri, Joe went through a bit of a cold spell and battled what Anderson described as "a bug," which made him far less than 100 percent healthy for a week. He made just 1-of-8 3-point attempts against Texas Tech and Georgia, but against LSU and Vanderbilt in the two games since, he has returned to form, knocking down 10-of-18 triple tries and averaging 18 points per game.

"It’s just good to see him start to feel a lot better," Anderson said Thursday. "He was real puny there for a while. I just thought before he got sick he was playing with that pep in his step again."

The sprees from 3-point range similar to Tuesday's have lifted Joe into the conversation as one of the best first-year sharpshooters in program history. Joe is one 3-pointer shy of tying Scotty Thurman, who made 267 3-pointers in his career, for third-most by a freshman and four off of Rotnei Clarke’s school record.

Clarke made 83-of-211 (39.3 percent) tries during the 2008-09 season.

"What we’re seeing (now), his confidence is soaring, and that’s important for our basketball team," Anderson said of Joe. "He’s a really good player and has a chance to be a real special player."

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