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.
Focused Sills kicks off March with a bang
Arkansas guard Desi Sills (3) plays against Vanderbilt during the second half of a game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
FAYETTEVILLE — In the locker room following Arkansas’ 75-64 home win over Florida last month, Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman stressed the importance of each player being mentally prepared entering each game.
He added that it is largely an unknown as to which player or players will wind up making a game-changing impact. That night, it was freshman guard Davonte Davis, who scored a team-high 18 points, and Musselman gave him props for his performance.
The Razorbacks’ second-year coach then looked at junior guard Desi Sills as he wrapped up his postgame message.
“Desi, we need you, so stay into it and be ready when your name is called,” he said. “You’re going to have a big game coming up.”
Against Florida, Sills did not score in his six minutes, and it marked the seventh consecutive outing in which he did not reach double figures. Musselman knew, though, that Sills wouldn’t stay down offensively too much longer.
Three games later, Sills’ big night became a reality.
He finished with 15 points on 5 of 7 from three-point range Tuesday at South Carolina in Arkansas’ 101-73 win. The five threes matched a single-game high for Sills, who made five shots from the floor all of last month.
It was also his first game contributing 10-plus points since Jan. 20 against Auburn.
“Desi’s shot selection was incredible,” Musselman said Tuesday. “I thought Desi was really focused and got his feet set on those threes. It’s hard in the college game to take seven threes and make five of them.
“It’s hard to do that in the gym standing alone, let alone with defense on you.”
Sills found the bulk of his success from deep on the left wing, where he hit 3 of 3 attempts. He also made a three in the left corner and on the right wing.
Sills was 1 of 7 from distance in February and 6 of 30 in the first two months of 2021. Despite the struggles, he was confident that his late nights and early mornings in the practice facility would eventually translate.
“At the end of the day, when you’re in a slump and you stayed in the gym no matter if you’re playing or not, the work is always going to come back, and it pays off,” Sills said. “It paid off (Tuesday). No matter what I’m going through I’m going to stay in the gym and stay consistent with my work, because I believe in hard work.
“It feels good seeing it go in. Shooters shoot, and I’m going to keep on shooting. If I keep on playing with confidence like I did tonight, I’ll be just fine.”
Sills admitted Tuesday that his shoulder, which he injured in the Razorbacks’ home win over Mississippi State on Feb. 2, has been bothering him. And although it hampered his playing time over a three-week stretch, he refused to check out on the team.
He is focused on what is coming for No. 12 Arkansas this month.
“I’m the type of guy that plays with toughness,” Sills said. “Whether I’m playing or not, if I’ve got a shoulder injury I’m still going to try to step out there and try to produce or do what I want to do. At the end of the day, I have a shoulder injury. It happens.”
The fact Sills broke out of his offensive funk to begin March shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise. It is the month he has been at his best as a Razorback.
In 19 career games in December he has made 27 threes. In 23 games in February he has knocked down 26 threes. Sills is 26 of 42 (61.9%) from deep in 10 games in March.
Musselman said after the win over the Gamecocks he had a short discussion with Sills that centered on how proud he was of the guard’s mental toughness and readiness to contribute to Arkansas’ 10th consecutive win in SEC play.
“It means a lot because I’ve never been ranked,” Sills said. “Being the No. 12 team in the country means a lot, seeing how everybody comes together, everybody is playing with each other and we’re moving the ball and we’ve all got chemistry.
“It keeps going every game.”
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