Wild swings: Jones tries to even out performance off bench

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Arkansas guard Mason Jones (13) drives around Ole Miss guard D.C. Davis (20) during a game Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas guard Mason Jones (13) drives around Ole Miss guard D.C. Davis (20) during a game Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas guard Mason Jones has been good enough to score 30 points in two SEC games this season against Florida and Mississippi State in Walton Arena.

Jones, a 6-5 sophomore guard, also has been bad enough to shoot 1 of 10 from the field in two SEC games at Texas A&M and Ole Miss.

"Very inconsistent," Jones said when asked about his first season at Arkansas after transferring from Connors (Okla.) State College. "I harp on myself a lot, because I know I can be better and I know I can be more consistent.

"But making that transition from juco to high major, sometimes my body wears down and sometimes I come in ready and sometimes I don't. That's really the mental game I have to get better at. This year, that's what I've learned a lot. Making sure I'm preparing myself for every game."

Maybe Jones' struggles in Arkansas' first game against Ole Miss -- when he went 0 of 6 on three-point attempts and scored 5 points in the Razorbacks' 84-67 loss on Jan. 19 at The Pavilion -- explain why he got so many open shots in the teams' rematch Saturday.

"We weren't near him very much," Ole Miss Coach Kermit Davis said. "We had bad awareness to him."

Jones made the Rebels pay by hitting 7 of 10 shots -- including 6 of 8 three-pointers -- and scoring 22 points as the Razorbacks won 74-73 in Walton Arena to break a six-game losing streak.

"The inconsistencies are typical of someone who is just kind of getting into major college basketball," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said of Jones' season overall. "Especially when you've got to play with the sense of urgency at this level against the teams that we're playing. They're scouting against him.

"I think he's done a good job, but sometimes guys put a lot of pressure on themselves."

The game after Jones scored 30 points against Mississippi State, he shot 1 of 9 -- including 0 of 6 on three-pointers -- and finished with 4 points in Arkansas' 79-56 loss at Auburn in which the Razorbacks fell behind 22-1.

Anderson made the decision to change the starting lineup the next game against Texas A&M at home and go with freshman guard Desi Sills in place of Jones and sophomore forward Gabe Osabuohien in place of junior Adrio Bailey.

"When I first found out, I was kind of down," Jones said. "Because me being a starter for 26 games, it's kind of hard coming off the bench. It's been different, but my mom always says God has a plan for everybody. So it's just an adjustment period for me.

"Coach Anderson, he just told me to relax. The games before I was putting pressure on myself. The last couple games have been really good for me because now I'm just relaxing and playing in the flow. Just controlling what I can control."

Anderson said he can think of several players who were pressing as starters whom Anderson brought off the bench at times -- including guards Dusty Hannahs and Daryl Macon, each of whom scored more than 1,000 points in their two seasons at Arkansas.

"They were even more efficient and effective coming off the bench," Anderson said. "So whether [Jones] starts or not, I think he's had the opportunity to do that, too.

"He may be starting the next game. I don't know. But he was really efficient the other day. I thought that was one of his better games. He played 29 minutes with 22 points and a high field goal percentage. I thought he played the game the right way."

Arkansas sophomore point guard Jalen Harris praised Jones for his attitude about coming off the bench.

"I think he's handled it real well," Harris said. "He doesn't show emotion, and he doesn't pout when he gets out there. He just goes out there and does his job."

Anderson said he still considers Jones to be a starter considering he has averaged 26.0 minutes in three games off the bench.

"I think he's understanding what his role is for our basketball team," Anderson said. "Whether he starts or not."

Jones, averaging 14.0 points and 3.9 rebounds in 30.0 minutes for the season going into Arkansas' game at Vanderbilt on Wednesday night, said playing off the bench has its advantages.

"Just to see where I can get my shots from and see where I can help the team," he said. "See the little things the starters don't see that I can see on the bench.

"It's really helped my game knowing I can still do the things I did starting now that I'm coming off the bench."

Jones said he's looking forward to finishing strong.

"I definitely feel like I can be more consistent," he said. "A lot better."

Sports on 03/05/2019

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