Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
UA bench players don't sit on hands
Arkansas basketball players celebrate during a game against Texas-Arlington on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Seniors guards Dusty Hannahs and Manny Watkins, and junior forwards Arlando Cook and Trey Thompson didn't start for Arkansas at Texas A&M, but they helped the Razorbacks finish off the Aggies.
All four reserves made key plays in the second half when the Razorbacks rallied from a 12-point deficit to win 62-60 at Reed Arena on Tuesday.
Hannahs, who played a team-high 27 minutes, scored all nine of his points in the final 12:32, starting with a three-point basket that cut the Aggies' lead to 48-39.
Watkins finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds -- including an offensive board with 1:45 left -- and 3 steals in 23 minutes.
Cook had 6 points, a team-high 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots in 21 minutes. Both of his steals came in the final 5:16.
Thompson didn't attempt a shot, but he had 3 rebounds, 2 blocked shots and 2 assists in 12 minutes.
The heavy bench contributions have become a staple for the Razorbacks (14-4, 3-3 SEC) this season as they prepare to play LSU (9-8, 1-5) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Walton Arena.
Arkansas has outscored its opponents 562-364 in bench points, including 24-11 at Texas A&M.
"The bench continues to be a strength of our team," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. "The five guys that start have been pretty good, but I really feel when the guys come off the bench that they have the advantage because the first unit goes out and really makes those other teams work. Then the second unit comes in and, to me, they're just as strong as the starting unit."
Anderson usually starts substituting about five minutes into the game.
"We come off the bench ready to go, aggressive and attacking" Hannahs said. "We're watching the game intently.
"After that first media timeout, you're locked in. You know your time is about to come. If we're coming in with the lead we want to make it bigger, and if we come in and we're down, we want to get that lead changed."
Junior guard Anton Beard, who has started the past two games but played off the bench 14 times, said the Razorbacks understand the importance of their depth.
"Coming off the bench doesn't mean you won't play," said Beard, who is averaging 9.0 points in 21.1 minutes. "It just means, 'Hey, you come off the bench.' We're all into the game."
Beard said being able to watch the first few minutes of the game provides insight on how to attack the opposing team.
"We sit over there and talk about what we're going to do, how we're going to do it," he said. "I think that's where we have the advantage over most teams."
In Arkansas' 84-72 victory over Houston, the Razorbacks outscored the Cougars 34-14 in bench points.
"I think their strength is always going to be their depth," Houston Coach Kelvin Sampson said. "It's never really an individual player. I don't think that they have one player that really stands out.
"They have a lot of good players. I think that's the strength of their team. They have good depth, and Mike does a good job using it."
Watkins, a team captain for a second consecutive season, has played off the bench most of his career, although he's started 12 games this season. He's averaging 6.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 22.1 minutes and has a team-high 25 steals.
"We know he brings energy to his team and he's a difference-maker," Texas A&M center Tyler Davis said of Watkins. "The scouting report was to not let him come in and have an impact on the game, and he did. He does his job every night."
Cook, a junior-college transfer averaging 3.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 13.1 minutes, has received praise from teammates for his ability to energize the Razorbacks.
"I know we talk about bringing energy a lot, but Arlando's energy is crazy on the court," Hannahs said. "Coach A says, 'Eat 'em up,' and that's what he does at the top of that press sometimes.
"He's making them change direction so many times that sometimes they'll lose the ball."
Thompson's 27 field goal attempts are 10th on the team -- he's made 16 shots for 58.3 percent -- but he consistently provides good spacing and passing on offense and solid post defense.
"The more Trey Thompson keeps coming on for our basketball team, I think the better we're going to be," Anderson said. "He's going to give you some physicalness, he's got a really good basketball IQ in terms of passing the ball and setting screens, and he's been there because this is his third year in the program."
Hannahs, who has started 10 times this season and played off the bench in eight games, is averaging 13.9 points and 24.1 minutes.
Playing off the bench he has scored 17 points against Houston and Mississippi State, 16 against Missouri and 15 against Texas.
"I just go out there and hoop," Hannahs said. "I don't really put much importance into whether or not I'm starting. I like to start. I like to play, too.
"I'm going to do whatever it takes to help this team win. These buckets are coming whether they're off the bench or starting. That's how I look at it."
Anderson has used seven different starting combinations this season with eight players getting at least three starts. Senior center Moses Kingsley is the only Razorback to start all 18 games.
"Coach A lets us know that it's not a big difference in each of our talents," Thompson said. "He says he has 10 or 11 starters and that gives us confidence where if we're not starting, we still can produce quality minutes in the time that we're given."
Missouri Coach Kim Anderson, whose Tigers lost at Arkansas 92-73 and were outscored 38-24 in bench points, said it's impressive to watch how Mike Anderson utilizes his roster.
"I think it says a lot of good things about Mike, that he's able to convince his team that it doesn't matter who starts, that everybody's going to get to play," Anderson said. "He's to be commended for that."
Sports on 01/20/2017
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