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 twice.
Red Raiders to show Hogs stingy defense
Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard watches play against Baylor during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
FAYETTEVILLE -- Points figure to be hard to come by for the University of Arkansas basketball team when the Razorbacks play at Texas Tech on Saturday in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
The No. 14-ranked Red Raiders (15-4, 4-3 Big 12) lead the nation in field goal defense at 35.3 percent and are second in scoring defense, holding opponents to an average of 55.9 points.
"It's our identity," Texas Tech Coach Chris Beard said of playing stingy defense. "It's kind of what we hang our hat on.
"It's what we recruit, it's what we coach, it's what we practice every day. We're a defensive program. We think that gives you a chance to compete and win games in March.
"Very similar to our team at Little Rock when we were in the great state of Arkansas a few years ago."
Beard was the coach of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock during the 2015-16 season, when the Trojans finished 30-5 and beat Purdue 85-83 in double overtime in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Iowa State 78-61.
The Trojans held opponents to an average of 60.8 points per game (fourth nationally) and 39.5 percent shooting (15th).
Kansas State finally became the first team to shoot better than 45.0 percent against Texas Tech in the 19th game this season. The Wildcats shot 46.3 percent (19 of 41) to beat the Red Raiders 58-45 at home on Tuesday night.
Baylor is the only opponent to score more than 69 points on the Red Raiders in a 73-62 home victory last Saturday.
In Kansas State's first game against Texas Tech on Jan. 5, the Red Raiders won 63-57 and held the Wildcats to 33.3 percent shooting.
Duke shot 38.3 percent against Texas Tech, Nebraska shot 35.4 and Oklahoma shot 32.3.
"They're great defensively," said Oklahoma Coach Lon Kruger, whose Sooners lost at Texas Tech 66-59. "They have five guys that really understand the scheme.
"They react to each other, they help each other. Fundamentally they've very disciplined, very sound. Coach Beard does a fantastic job."
Arkansas (11-7, 2-4 SEC) is shooting 44.7 percent on the season, including 42.2 in conference games.
The Razorbacks overcame a 1 of 12 start from the field and shot 44.1 percent (26 of 59) in a 72-60 victory over Missouri on Wednesday night in Walton Arena.
"It was kind of chilly, I guess," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said of his team's shooting in falling behind Missouri 17-4. "But eventually we broke the ice with our defense and then I thought we got into a much better rhythm."
Arkansas has fallen behind by at least nine points in the first half of its last five games, including losses to Florida and No. 25 LSU at home and to No. 1 Tennessee and No. 20 Ole Miss on the road.
"We have to make sure we come out and establish inside-out," Anderson said. "I think that's the biggest key there."
Anderson said that even in beating Missouri the Razorbacks too often settled for jump shots the first eight minutes before they started getting the ball inside to 6-11 Daniel Gafford.
Arkansas began its comeback when Gafford got his first basket on a layup that cut Missouri's lead to 17-6 with 9:59 left in the first half. It was the start of the Razorbacks outscoring the Tigers 68-43 the rest of the game.
Gafford finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
"We have to continue to make sure our guys understand the strategy going in is to go inside-out first and let Dan touch it, even if they double up on him," Anderson said. "But I think we've got to make sure the ball is going in on time."
Arkansas men vs No. 14 Texas Tech
WHEN 5 p.m. Saturday
WHERE United Supermarkets Center, Lubbock, Texas
RECORDS Arkansas 11-7, 2-4 SEC. Texas Tech 15-4, 4-3 Big 12.
SERIES Tied 39-39
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
Gafford is averaging 16.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots and shooting an SEC-leading 64.8 percent from the field.
"They've obviously got one of the best players in college basketball and a future NBA player around the basket," Beard said of Gafford. "He has a unique ability and talent to change the game because he can play above the rim.
"I think he's a smart player, too. He does a lot more than just block shots. He's a position player, and he's an unselfish guy. I think he's an underrated passer."
Anderson said he expects the Red Raiders to pack in their defense around Gafford.
"They're going to make it difficult around the basket," Anderson said. "And they want to grind out games. They want the pace to be in the 50s and 60s. That's where they're comfortable."
For the Razorbacks to get the pace more to their liking they'll have to generate some offense from their defense as they did in forcing 24 turnovers against Missouri. They outscored the Tigers 27-13 in points off defense.
"We have to play defense ourselves," Anderson said after praising the Red Raiders. "Get stops, get in passing lanes.
"We have some kids that are great in transition. But at the end of the day, you're going to have to score sometimes in the half court as well. Get to the free-throw line.
"There are a lot of ways to score, so we have to be on point. We have to be able to help one another get open and get the ball to our shooters, get Dan going on the inside."
Texas Tech is 10-1 at home this season, with the loss to Iowa State 68-64 on Jan. 16. The Cyclones shot 44.6 percent (25 of 56) from the field, including 5 of 21 on three-pointers, and held on to win after taking a 41-33 halftime lead.
"They play a very disciplined man defense," Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm said. "They're in the gaps. They have really good ball pressure.
"They try to keep everything on one side of the floor when it gets over there. But they also change defenses. They'll pick up three-quarters court, they'll play some zone."
Prohm said the Red Raiders will trap at times.
"But at the end of the day, I think their heart and soul is just being really fundamentally sound defensively in the half court," he said. "They won't give you anything easy."
Sports on 01/25/2019
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