By Nate Allen
Special to the News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - For ailing 3-point shooters, shooting against Arkansas’ defense seems just what the doctor ordered.
Florida's KeVaughn Allen, a North Little Rock high grad and superb 3-point shooter the last two seasons, has hit but 12-of-41 3-pointers against SEC teams other than Arkansas.
Against the Razorbacks, he paced Florida’s 88-73 victory on Jan. 17 in Gainesville, Fla. hitting 6-of-7 threes among his season-high 28 points.
Off his last three games, against Missouri, LSU and Kansas, Texas A&M forward DJ Hogg connected but once on 13 tried treys.
Tuesday night against Arkansas at A&M’s Reed Arena in College Station, Texas, Hogg hit his third second-half trey at 16:23.
The Aggies, up only 33-32 at half, were ahead 50-37 and extended the lead to 21 before Arkansas cut the cushion to nine and eventually lost 80-66.
Hogg’s 3-point flurry and a surprising 4-of-5 treys and team-leading 16 points by A&M freshman point guard TJ Starks opened the inside game for Aggies renowned big men Tyler Davis (15 points and 11 rebounds), Robert Williams (10 points and seven rebounds) and big guard Admon Gilder (13 points, eight rebounds).
All of a sudden an Arkansas team that played excellent defense in its last two games, an 80-77 double overtime SEC victory at Georgia and 66-65 victory over Oklahoma State in last Saturday’s Big 12/SEC Challenge game at Walton Arena, and had played excellent first-half defense in College Station, was shot to pieces.
“Boy you talk about tale of two halves,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said Tuesday. “I thought tonight our defense was really good in the first half, even when we weren’t scoring at a high clip. But they came out in the second half and Hogg really helped cushion it. He hit a couple of threes and Gilder hit one and before you know it, they exploded a little bit on us.
“Before you knew it, we let their one-point lead blow up to double figures.”
Obviously, the Hogs need to play better defense than they did at Florida and at Texas A&M, but just as obviously, the opponents had something to do with making Arkansas look as bad as it did.
Florida, 15-7 overall just like Arkansas, has been inconsistent this season, but when the Gators are on, they are as good as anyone in the country.
They’ve proved it beating Stanford, Gonzaga and Cincinnati among others in non-conference while losing squeakers to Duke and Clemson.
In the SEC, the Gators have beaten Kentucky and routed Texas A&M.
Texas A&M played some awful games earlier this season when coach Billy Kennedy’s Aggies (14-8 overall, 3-6 in the SEC) were afflicted with injuries and suspensions.
But valid reasons abound, starting with as talented a frontcourt in the country led by future NBA big men Davis and Williams that they were preseason picked to win the SEC, they remained in the so-called “bracketologists” projected NCAA Tournament brackets even when they were 2-6 in the SEC.
“Let’s give them credit,” Anderson said. “Kennedy has a dynamite team. He’s got all those pieces together now.
“When you look at Davis, you look at Hogg, who probably I thought played one of his better basketball games. They played well. Give them some credit, too.”
The Aggies big men didn’t just negate Arkansas big men Daniel Gafford, Trey Thompson, Dustin Thomas and Arlando Cook, they dwarfed them statistically.
“We didn’t get a whole lot from our inside game,” Anderson said. “We have got to make sure that turns around. So we’ve got to get Daniel going and get Trey going and Dustin Thomas inside.
“And we had some looks in there.”
Combined against A&M, Gafford, Thompson, Thomas and Cook netted but seven points, five by foul-troubled Gafford and two by Cook, and 10 rebounds.
A&M outrebounded Arkansas 45-30.
Arkansas got its main scoring from guards Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford and Darious Hall (20, 19 and 13 points respectively), but the perimeter reliance led to more costly turnovers than Anderson is accustomed to his Razorbacks committing.
“We talk about coming out that first five minutes of the second half with a lot of energy,” Anderson said, “and we came out the second half and turn it over the first two times and they capitalize on it each time. If we are just going to be on the perimeter they can zero in on that.”
At their best, both Arkansas and the Aggies have proven capable of great things with the Aggies projected potentially the greater.
Anderson knows the Hogs need their best Walton homecourt advantage hosting the Aggies in a Feb. 17 SEC rematch.
And that’s no guarantee.
LSU, hosting Arkansas at 2:30 p.m Saturday on the SEC Network in Baton Rouge, La., is the one team this season that waltzed out of Walton victorious over the Hogs.