Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Confident Sills packing a punch off the bench
Razorbacks guard Desi Sills attempts a jumpshot in the second half of Arkansas' 86-69 win over Tennessee on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Visit nwaonline.com/uabball/ for more images.
FAYETTEVILLE — Shortly after Arkansas' 86-69 win over Tennessee on Wednesday, junior guard Mason Jones was in a complimentary mood.
Jones dished out praise to sophomore Isaiah Joe, who scored 20-plus points for the second consecutive game since returning from injury, labeling him "a pro." Desi Sills was gifted a pair of NBA player comparisons, too.
In Jones' eyes, Sills is Arkansas' version of Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker in terms of the toughness he brings to the floor. But what about Sills as a scorer of late?
"He’s like (Los Angeles Clippers guard) Lou Williams. He comes off the bench and he’s killing it now," Jones said. "Teams can’t really guard his euro-step. They don’t really know what to give up."
Williams is a three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year recipient and one of the more explosive scorers in today's game. Sills, after starting the first 18 games of the season, has provided a needed punch for Arkansas in four games off the bench.
The sophomore is averaging 14.2 points on 58.8 percent from 3-point range in those games, and the Razorbacks are 3-1. Sills scored 18 against TCU, 17 and 13 in wins over Missouri and Tennessee, respectively, and nine vs. South Carolina.
"We’ve seen his confidence grow offensively," Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said Thursday. "He told us, ‘Just leave me coming off the bench.’ It allows him to watch the game. He’s done a great job and had a great attitude.
"He knew that we were trying to figure out a way to get off to better starts and he was a willing guy to accept, ‘Hey, I’m not going to let it effect my game coming off the bench. Do what you want to do and I’ll play hard and try to provide the team whatever I can.’"
In the Razorbacks' last two games, Sills has posted his top two personal offensive ratings of the season, according to KenPom, at 189 against Missouri and 155 on Wednesday. He has become much more dangerous from 3-point range recently, too, knocking down 7 of 11 attempts in the last two games.
Sills has hit 10 3s in his four games off the bench, and he has found the left side of the floor very much to his liking, just as he did as a freshman. He 48.6 percent of his 3s from the left wing and left corner last season, according to shot chart data collected throughout the year.
As a reserve in 2019-20, Sills is 4 of 6 in the left corner and 4 of 6 on the left wing. He now owns the team lead in left-corner 3s with 11.
Musselman is hoping Sills can carry his newfound jumper to Georgia this weekend against star freshman Anthony Edwards and the Bulldogs (14-14, 4-11 SEC). He has shot 27.3 percent from deep in Arkansas' 10 true road games.
"Desi’s shooting the ball well," Musselman said. "He’s playing with more confidence, and he’s been really, really good at home. Now we need him to carry that confidence and that bravado into a road game as well. I do think he’s played really good basketball at home.
"We need to him to have a big road game as well."
During Wednesday's game, the SEC Network's broadcast picked up on a brief conversation between Musselman and Sills after the guard misplayed a screen defensively.
"You've got to fight over the screen, and then you've got to jump," Musselman said.
"That's my mistake, coach," responded Sills, who then tapped his coach on the chest. "I'm going to make up for it."
Musselman said he loved Sills' no-excuse approach in that moment. The self-accountability is another sign of growth in the second-year player.
"Desi owned up to the fact that he missed an assignment, so to speak," he added. "There’s not much to be said to a player other than, ‘Great. Go make it happen.' Same thing when a ref says, ‘Hey, I missed a call.’
"As a coach you can’t say anything else. And when a player says, ‘Hey, I missed an assignment,' you kind of go, ‘Hey, great. Let’s move on.’ It’s when a guy has an excuse of why he (wasn't) where he was supposed to be when it escalates."
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