Starter shuf­fle?

Anderson hints at lineup changes

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - BOB HOLT 7:30 p.m. to­day, Wal­ton Arena, Fayet­teville (SEC Net­work)

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.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/CHAR­LIE KAIJO

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.


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