Anderson wants bounce-back game from reserves

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Friday, January 11, 2019
Image from Arkansas' 57-51 loss to Florida Wednesday Jan. 9, 2019 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Image from Arkansas' 57-51 loss to Florida Wednesday Jan. 9, 2019 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Mike Anderson gave his reserves credit for playing hard in Wednesday's loss to Florida, but there was one caveat.

The Razorbacks' bench players - Gabe Osabuohien, Desi Sills, Reggie Chaney, Keyshawn Embery-Simpson - did not score a single point, assisting in the worst offensive performance in Bud Walton Arena in Anderson's tenure.

Those four players combined for an 0/10 night shooting, missing all five 3-point attempts against the Gators. Osabuohien was the lone player in the group to get to the free throw line, and he missed all four shots.

Wednesday marked the first time since joining the SEC that the Razorbacks did not get any offensive production from its bench. What can be and has been one of Anderson's greatest weapons as a coach is now one of his biggest question marks.

"I say it’s going to be a strong component of our basketball team, but they did not score a point," Anderson said Wednesday following the loss, Arkansas' third in Bud Walton Arena this season. "So when you have all those things take place, it’s kind of a mountain you’ve got to climb. We didn’t get it done."

For the season, Anderson gets 16.9 points per game from his reserves, including season highs of 38 at Colorado State in Arkansas' first road game of the season and 31 against Austin Peay to cap the 2018 calendar year. But that group is also susceptible to nights similar to Wednesday. Four times this season Arkansas' bench has contributed fewer than 10 points, and it pitched in 10 in a home loss to Georgia Tech on Dec. 19.

Arkansas scored no more than 13 bench points in its first three games of the season. Opposing benches have outscored the Razorbacks in that area nine times through 14 games. Texas outscored Arkansas 25-4, UC Davis 17-12, UT-Arlington 21-15 and Texas State 19-6.

Perhaps most puzzling thing aside from the historical aspect of Arkansas' bench effort Wednesday is that the group was coming off a pair of games in which it combined for 53 points against Austin Peay and Texas A&M. Osabuohien and Sills sparked Arkansas' reserves in College Station, teaming up to score 20 of the 22 points. Sills scored a career-high 14, and Osabuohien added six to go with a then-career best seven rebounds.

"You just think of the contrast," Anderson said. "It’s the inconsistency. We’ve got to be more consistent in our play. And our bench is very, very important in what we do."

Osabuohien again totaled a career-high in rebounds with eight against the Gators, but fouled out and turned the ball over twice in 14 minutes. He also missed another 3-point attempt, pushing him to 2/12 on the season. Sills added two more turnovers and has now not scored in three of the last four games.

Reggie Chaney played a career-low five minutes in the loss, missing two shots and grabbing one rebound in limited time. He traveled eight seconds after checking into the game in the first half. Anderson said Chaney's presence was missed Wednesday and that Chaney was frustrated while on the floor. Anderson sat the 6-8 freshman for the entire second half despite Gafford and Osabuohien battling foul trouble.

Two games ago, Embery-Simpson was essentially the hero of the win against Austin Peay. The freshman guard tied a career-high with 14 points in nine second-half minutes. He is 0/8 from the floor and 0/5 from 3 since. He went through a similar slump - 1/11 shooting over the next four games - after scoring a then-career high 14 at Colorado State.

Anderson said Friday he isn't looking for a rebound performance from one player in particular on Saturday against LSU. He's hopeful the bench as a whole will put Florida behind it and respond appropriately.

"I expect a bounce back from (Chaney), I expect a bounce back from our bench," Anderson said. "They know they're important and just coming in with the right mindset will help them. The energy they bring, the defensive mindset, that triggers the offense for them.

"I'm looking for a much better effort from all of those guys."

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