Oh, the shooting woes

Ra­zor­backs left search­ing for right touch

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - BOB HOLT

FAYET­TEVILLE — The Univer­sity of Arkansas men’s bas­ket­ball team didn’t just miss shots against Florida. Three times the Ra­zor­backs’ shots failed to even hit the rim.

“I’ve never seen so many air­balls,” Arkansas Coach Mike An­der­son said. “I don’t know if it was nerves or what it was.”

Florida was the slightly bet­ter of two hor­ren­dous-shooting teams as the Ga­tors held on to beat the Ra­zor­backs 57-51 on Wednesday night at Wal­ton Arena,

The Ga­tors shot 31 per­cent (18 of 58) from the field while the Ra­zor­backs shot 30 per­cent (15 of 50).

At times it was like watch­ing two peo­ple play­ing H-OR-S-E and nei­ther could get an “H” on the other.

“We had wide-open shots,” An­der­son said. “There’s no doubt about it. We just didn’t knock them down. We missed a lot of easy shots.

“But you go on the flip side, they didn’t make a whole lot of shots as well. So maybe it was a de­fen­sive strug­gle or a bat­tle. Whatever you want to call it.”

Arkansas sopho­more for­ward Daniel Gaf­ford, who came into the game av­er­ag­ing 17.0 points per game, was 3 of 4 from the field.

Gaf­ford scored two in­side bas­kets to give Arkansas a 4-0 lead, but at­tempted just two shots the rest of the game. He hit 3 of 6 free throws and fin­ished with a sea­son-low 9 points.

“We started off scor­ing,” An­der­son said. “Then we kind of got away from it, and so I’ll take the blame for that.

“We’ve got to do bet­ter in terms of re­ally con­tin­u­ing to get Daniel in­volved and move

him around. We’ve got to get the ball to him.”

Florida Coach Mike White said his team’s strat­egy was to dou­ble-team Gaf­ford when­ever he got the ball.

“We just felt like we needed to,” White said. “Some­times as soon as it touched his hands, he had two and three guys around him. We did a pretty good job of ro­tat­ing out of those post traps, but a cou­ple of times they made us pay where they got open threes out of them.”

Arkansas (10-4, 1-1 SEC) didn’t make the Ga­tors pay enough as the Ra­zor­backs shot 6 of 26 on three-point­ers.

Ra­zor­backs sopho­more guard Ma­son Jones scored a ca­reer-high 30 points and hit 7 of 13 shots, in­clud­ing 4 of 9 three-point­ers.

“He car­ried us,” An­der­son said. “He kept us in it. He played with that sense of ur­gency, that pas­sion you’ve got to play with.”

Ex­clud­ing Jones and Gaf­ford, the other seven Ra­zor­backs who played com­bined to shoot 5 of 33.

Arkansas freshman guard Isa­iah Joe — who came into the game av­er­ag­ing 15.5 points — scored a sea­son-low five points. His pre­vi­ous low was 10 points in three games.

Joe hit 2 of 10 shots — in­clud­ing 2 of 9 three-point­ers — and had two of the air­balls. Freshman guard Desi Sills had the other air­ball. Joe came into the game shooting 45.5 per­cent from be­hind the arc (49 of 108).

“You look at Isa­iah Joe,” An­der­son said. “That’s one of those guys that nor­mally would knock shots down.”

With Gaf­ford not get­ting enough shots and three other starters — Joe, sopho­more

guard Jalen Har­ris and ju­nior guard Adrio Bai­ley — shooting 5 of 23, the Ra­zor­backs needed the bench to con­trib­ute.

But Arkansas was outscored 10-0 in bench points by Florida as Sills, Keyshawn Em­bery-Simp­son, Reg­gie Chaney and Gabe Os­abuo­hien com­bined to shoot 0 of 10.

Ac­cord­ing to Hogstats.com, it was the first game since Arkansas joined the SEC for the 1991-92 sea­son in which the Ra­zor­backs didn’t score any bench points.

The Ra­zor­backs shot un­der 40 per­cent for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive game. Their 37.1 per­cent shooting (26 of 70) in a 73-71 vic­tory at Texas A&M on Saturday had been a sea­son-low un­til they shot even worse against the Ga­tors.

Arkansas has shot a com­bined 39.9 per­cent in its last seven games and av­er­aged 70.1 points while go­ing 4-3. The Ra­zor­backs haven’t scored more than 79 points since winning 98-74 at Colorado State on Dec. 9.

An­der­son said the Ra­zor­backs need to play with more in­ten­sity on de­fense to force a faster pace which will help them get more shots.

“We’ve got to be a lit­tle bit more up­tempo,” he said. “That’s what has to take place.”

The Ra­zor­backs fi­nally got the tempo to their lik­ing when they went on a 19-5 run over a 6:22 span to cut a 48-32 deficit

to 53-51.

But Arkansas couldn’t get any closer and Florida closed out the game when Ke­Vaughn Allen, the Ga­tors’ se­nior guard from Lit­tle Rock, hit 4 of 4 free throws in the fi­nal 12 sec­onds to fin­ish with 18 points.

“I knew we worked hard to get back, so it would have been nice to fin­ish it off with a win,” Jones said. “But that’s what hap­pens when we start off slow and have to fight back.

“If you try to wait that late to put your hard hat on then some­times you’re not go­ing to get the re­sults you want.”

The 51 points were the Ra­zor­backs’ low­est to­tal in a home game in An­der­son’s eight sea­sons as their coach. The pre­vi­ous low came in a 75-54 loss to LSU last sea­son.

LSU (11-3, 1-0 SEC) re­turns to Wal­ton Arena to play Arkansas at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Arkansas will try to bounce back from a loss in its SEC home opener, just as Florida did in beat­ing the Ra­zor­backs. South Carolina won 71-69 at Florida on Saturday.

“Be­cause Florida was com­ing off a loss, I knew they were go­ing to come in here and re­ally get af­ter our guys,” An­der­son said. “We just didn’t match that in­ten­sity.

“Now we’ve got a tal­ented LSU team com­ing in here. We’ve got to re­group and get back to play­ing bas­ket­ball where we’re hav­ing fun.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/J.T. WAM­PLER

Arkansas’ Ma­son Jones (right) shoots over Florida’s Ke­Vaughn Allen dur­ing the Ra­zor­backs’ loss to the Ga­tors on Wednesday night at Wal­ton Arena in Fayet­teville. Jones scored a ca­reer-high 30 points, but the rest of the team man­aged only 21 points and the Hogs shot 30 per­cent from the field.

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