Anderson hints at lineup changes
FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas men’s basketball team has started the same lineup in 24 of its 26 games, including the past nine.
That might change when Arkansas (14-12, 5-8) plays Texas A&M (11-14, 4-9) tonight at Walton Arena, considering the Razorbacks have lost four consecutive games to fall to 10th in the SEC standings.
“There’s a possibility of a shakeup,” Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said.
Arkansas freshman guards Desi Sills and Keyshawn Embery-Simpson, and sophomore forward Gabe Osabuohien could get their first career starts tonight.
In Auburn’s 79-56 victory over the Razorbacks on Wednesday night, Anderson started Sills, Embery-Simpson and Osabuohien in the second half in place of sophomore guards Mason Jones and Jalen Harris, and junior forward Adrio Bailey with the Tigers ahead 45-20 at halftime.
With the trio of reserves joining sophomore forward Daniel Gafford and freshman guard Isaiah Joe in the lineup, Arkansas outscored Auburn 36-34 in the second half.
“In the second half, even though Auburn had a big lead, I thought our guys fought defensively, offensively,” Anderson said. “They played together. So hopefully that’s going to be a good sign as we get ready for A&M.”
Sills had 9 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 23 minutes at Auburn. Osabuohien had 7 points, 4 rebounds and
3 steals in 19 minutes. Embery-Simpson had 2 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 22 minutes.
“You want to put guys out there that are going to give you the things that you need, and we need defense,” Anderson said. “We need some great defense, and we need to get the tempo up and down the floor. We’ve got to get guys doing a better job of helping our scorers get open.”
Anderson said that in watching tape of the Auburn game, he saw some players doing a lot of standing.
“Sometimes that could be some guys that have hit the wall,” he said. “So now maybe you’ve got to get some energy out there on the floor. Get some new blood, so to speak.”
Gafford, Joe, Jones and Harris have started every game this season. Bailey has started all but two games, when freshman forward Reggie Chaney started against Texas State and at Ole Miss.
Bailey played 12 minutes in the first half at Auburn, then didn’t play in the second half. He was scoreless on 0-of-2 shooting and had 2 rebounds.
Anderson said Bailey was fine physically to play in the second half, but he decided to go with Osabuohien and Chaney.
“I thought it was those guys who were playing well,” Anderson said.
Chaney had 4 points, 2 steals and 1 rebound in 16 minutes.
“With our team having dropped some games, obviously confidence is the biggest thing that we’ve got to come out and play with,” Anderson said. “So having the opportunity to play at home, hopefully our guys are going to come out with the energy you are going to need to have at this time of the year.”
Arkansas won 73-71 at Texas A&M to open SEC play. The Aggies are 11th in the conference, but they’re 3-1 in their past four games with victories at Missouri, and at home against Georgia and Alabama. The loss was at South Carolina.
“Our guys have been good in practice, and they’re playing at a high level,” Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy said. “We’ve just come up short at times.
“Some of that has to do with the opponents that we’re playing. We have a small margin for error, and we’ve got to continue to get better in order to win in this league.”
Aggies junior guard Wendell Mitchell, a transfer from Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College, is averaging a team-high 15.1 points in SEC games. Over the past six games, he’s averaging 18.0 points.
“He’s been much more consistent the last three or four weeks,” Kennedy said. “We need to get more out of him from the defensive end, but he’s giving us everything he’s got on the offensive end.”
Texas A&M sophomore guard TJ Starks, who scored a season-high 23 points against Arkansas in the teams’ first meeting, has played off the bench the past four games.
“It’s maybe taken some pressure off of him,” Kennedy said. “Coming into the game off the bench, he’s able to get a feel for the game and play with more pace on the offensive end as far as making plays for other people and not scoring as much.”
Starks is averaging 13.5 points and 3.0 assists in 24.5 minutes the past four games.
“He’s playing better, and I like the lineup that we have starting the game as far as from an efficiency standpoint,” Kennedy said.
Anderson said the Aggies are playing better than when the Razorbacks beat them seven weeks ago.
“You look back at when we played them earlier in the year, it was two teams trying to find their identity,” Anderson said. “They were young and, of course, we were young at that time.
“Through the course of playing games, those guys got a little seasoning. They’ve got some pretty talented players. So I think they’re starting to play the way Billy thought they’d be playing.
“It’s going to be a heck of a ballgame because it’s two teams that are continuing to try to find a way to find wins at this time of the year.”
Arkansas sophomore forward Gabe Osabuohien could be one of the new additions to the Razorbacks’ starting lineup today against Texas A&M as Coach Mike Anderson searches for ways to end the Hogs’ four-game losing streak.