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.
Razorbacks Basketball Report:
Hogs find touch on 3-pointers
Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe shoots a 3-pointer during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against LSU on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La. Arkansas won 90-89. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Arkansas basketball team hopes it can shoot as well from three-point range today against Florida in the SEC Tournament in Bridgestone Arena as the Razorbacks did a couple of miles away at Vanderbilt eight days before.
Arkansas shot a season-high 61.1 percent on three-pointers (11 of 18) in beating Vanderbilt 84-48 on March 6 in Memorial Gym.
It was part of a roll the Razorbacks have been on from beyond the arc over the past four games. Arkansas shot 51.3 on three-pointers (39 of 76) at Kentucky, against Ole Miss, at Vanderbilt and against Alabama.
The Razorbacks' worst three-point shooting game in that stretch was 45.0 percent in an 82-70 victory over Alabama on Saturday when they hit 9 of 20.
Sophomore guard Mason Jones has hit 13 of 22 three-pointers in the past four games, with freshman guard Isaiah Joe hitting 13 of 24 and freshman guard Desi Sills hitting 10 of 15.
Daniel Gafford, the Razorbacks' 6-11 sophomore, said the perimeter shooting has helped free him up inside.
"Hitting those shots takes attention off of me," Gafford said. "Then when they're not in the position to hit one of those shots, it comes in to me and I also have to go to work."
Gafford has averaged 20.0 points and hit 33 of 51 shots in the past four games. He scored 29 points against Alabama.
"I just think they've got a good balance of having that inside-out game," Crimson Tide Coach Avery Johnson said. "That's a big key for any team.
"When you can throw the ball into Gafford and he causes terror inside -- and then you have guys like Joe and Sills and Jones on the perimeter making shots -- that's big."
Staying hot from the perimeter doesn't figure to be easy for Arkansas, considering Florida leads the SEC in three-point defense at 31.6 percent. Opponents have hit 196 of 621 three-pointers against the Gators -- an average of 6.3 per game.
"It doesn't matter how we've defended the three coming into this one," Florida Coach Mike White said. "We've got to defend really well [today], but this team can really, really shoot it. They're shooting it at a high clip right now from multiple guys."
Arkansas hit 6 of 26 three-pointers when the Gators beat the Razorbacks 57-51 in Walton Arena on Jan. 9 in the teams' only regular-season meeting. Jones shot 4 of 9. The other Razorbacks were 2 of 17.
Arkansas freshman guard Keyshawn Embery-Simpson is questionable for today's game against Florida because of a left foot injury he suffered in Tuesday's practice. He is a game-time decision, according to an UA spokesman.
Embery-Simpson has played in every game this season and is averaging 4.3 points and 1.2 rebounds in 15.3 minutes.
Arkansas has won three consecutive games since playing Kentucky tough in Rupp Arena before the No. 4 Wildcats held on to win 70-66.
It was the Razorbacks' sixth consecutive loss and dropped them to 14-14, but it also provided a confidence boost.
"With that Kentucky game, it basically showed everybody on this team that we can be one of the best teams in the SEC," sophomore forward Daniel Gafford said. "Because if we come out and play how we played against Kentucky -- if we come out and play like that against every other team we play -- we'd have a better record than we had before we went on that losing streak.
"Coming off that Kentucky loss, our mindset changed. We didn't want [the losses] to happen anymore. I know I didn't, personally, but I know the team didn't want it, either, because the vibe that I was feeling in the locker room, it changed.
"So going into the SEC Tournament, it's going to be a big turnaround for us, and I'm pretty sure we're going to go far. That's what my confidence is right now."
Arkansas didn't get any points from its bench when it lost to Florida earlier this season.
It's the only time since the Razorbacks joined the SEC for the 1991-92 season that their their reserves didn't score, according to Hogstats.com.
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said he expects the bench to produce more today, especially now that sophomore guard Mason Jones is playing as a reserve.
Jones is averaging 13.8 points and led the Razorbacks against Florida with 30. Playing off the bench in the past five games, he has averaged 13.2 points with a high of 22 against Ole Miss.
"A lot of guys have played a lot of minutes, and this is where a lot of guys start hitting that wall," Anderson said. "You want your bench to come in with that energy -- that second, third, fourth effort."
The Razorbacks have used four players off the bench in every game, but that could be down to three today with Jones, junior forward Adrio Bailey and freshman forward Reggie Chaney because freshman Keyshawn Embery-Simpson is questionable because of a foot injury.
Sports on 03/14/2019
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