By Nate Allen
Special to the News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - An Arkansas Razorbacks team bedeviled the last two games by opponents shooting them to bits with sprees of threes can’t afford defensively to overcompensate outside against South Carolina tonight.
Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks (15-8 overall, 4-6 in the SEC), and coach Frank Martin’s Gamecocks (13-10, 4-6) clash at 6 tonight in an ESPN2 televised game at Walton Arena.
Arkansas has lost its last two road games in the SEC having been hit for 10-of-26 threes by Texas A&M in the Aggies’ 80-66 victory last Tuesday, and burned for an astonishing 15-of-30 treys in last Saturday’s 94-86 loss at LSU.
“It’s about second, third and fourth effort in our rotation,” Anderson said. “Our rotation seems like it’s off a half-step. You are almost there, and we’ve got to get there and make those guys drivers.”
For now, what outside gunner is going to drive against Arkansas if feeling free for threes in sprees?
“It seems the teams we play are not shooting ball well before they play us, but it seems like against us they get their rhythm,” Anderson said. “How do you get them out of rhythm? You’ve got to be able to rotate and get them off the line. Just a sense of urgency and a much better effort defensively.”
However against South Carolina, even with Gamecocks guards Frank Booker, Wesley Myers, Evan Hinson and reserve forward Justin Minaya connecting on 40 percent or better on SEC threes, Arkansas’ defense better start defending inside first and foremost.
Chris Silva, the 6-9 sophomore and top returner from Martin’s senior-laden 2016-2017 squad that advanced to the Final Four, so dominates the offensive glass and draws opposition fouls while doing so that he’s already attempted 207 free throws and sunk 154.
“Chris Silva is one of the most underrated guys in the country,” Florida coach Mike White said on Monday’s SEC teleconference, obviously impressed by Silva’s double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds when the Gamecocks beat the Gators in Gainesville. “Chris Silva is as hard a guy as there is in the country to block out. And they’ve got several guys outside of Chris Silva that are dangerous on the offensive glass.”
Anderson said any game plan against the Gamecocks starts with Silva.
“He’s their go-to guy,” Anderson said. “We have to do a good job on him and keep him off the boards and keep their team off the boards. Their offense is shoot it and go get it. And they shoot a lot of threes. And our last outing, we haven’t done a good job of protecting that perimeter.”
Offensively, Anderson and Martin, Big 12 adversaries at Missouri and Kansas State before they left for the SEC, said it’s never easy against other’s defenses.
“They are going to get in your passing lanes,” Anderson said. “So we’ve got to have the floor spaced out and we’ve got to be in attack mode. That’s got to be the game plan. And rebounding, that’s in the DNA of Frank Martin teams.”
Martin, trying to snap a three-game skid since beating Florida with 70-63, 81-76 a 83-60 losses at home to then 14th-ranked Texas Tech in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and Mississippi State before running into red hot Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, cited Razorbacks senior guards Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford and Daniel Gafford, the freshman center from El Dorado.
However, he said regardless of individuals moving on and being replaced, the keys against a Mike Anderson team never change.
“Anytime you play Mike’s teams you know two things,” Martin said. “Defensively, they are going to be relentless. Offensively, they are going to do an unbelievable job of sharing the ball. Their player movement and ball movement on offense is tremendous and you had better be disciplined defensively or they start making shots and that starts setting up their press. And if you turn it over against them, you are in deep, deep trouble.”
Martin said turnovers and inside scoring have decided the Gamecocks’ 4-4 road record.
“When we’ve been good on the road, we haven’t turned it over and we’ve scored in the paint,” Martin said. “And when we have not been good on the road, we’ve been unable to score in the paint and we have had turnovers. And our turnovers are like pick sixes in football.”