By Nate Allen
Special to the News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - Great point guards and or long, tall athletic teams will bother most any team they play.
They’ve certainly bothered Arkansas.
Check out the nine in the Razorbacks’ 19-9 overall record and the seven in their SEC record.
It’s usually a great point guard, like LSU’s Tremont Waters, twice, or long, tall great rebounding teams like Texas A&M in College Station that have beaten the Razorbacks, though Arkansas did avenge that loss beating the Aggies in Fayetteville.
Tuesday night at Walton Arena, those long, tall Kentucky Wildcats erased an early 11-0 deficit and 43-43 halftime by erasing the second half boards 23-12 during a 44-29 second half for an 87-72 romp over the Razorbacks Tuesday night at Walton Arena.
So it bodes triply tough for the Razorbacks Saturday night against Alabama. First, it’s on the road, beginning at 5 p.m. on the SEC Network at the Crimson Tide’s Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Second, the Tide (17-11, 8-7) is “long and athletic,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said repeatedly during Thursday’s press conference, and has a great point guard in Collin Sexton, the 6-3 freshman leading coach Avery Johnson’s Tide in scoring average at 18.4 and assists at 3.4 per game.
“They are a team that’s long, athletic and that’s a concern,” Anderson said. “Because rebounding as we all know from the Kentucky game was a big, big issue. I thought that was the difference in the game going down the stretch.”
Sexton at 6-3 is Alabama’s shortest starter alongside 6-5 guards John Petty and Dazon Ingram and 6-9 power forward Donta Hall is leading Alabama in rebounding (7.0) and second in scoring (11.4) with 6-11 center Daniel Giddens.
That Arkansas flopped on the boards against Kentucky “shocked” Anderson the game after his Hogs rebounded to turn the tables on Texas A&M.
A&M outrebounded Arkansas 45-30 in the Aggies’ 80-66 Jan. 30 victory in College Station, but Arkansas outrebounded the Aggies 45-33 while beating them 94-75 last Saturday at Walton.
“To me it really was a shock,” Anderson said Thursday.
“I know Kentucky's long and athletic, but that's when you've got to make that adjustment and put bodies on people, and we didn't do that. That's the physicality and the mental toughness that's got to be with it.
"That's the approach we've got to take on the road. The mental toughness, the physicality that takes place this time of the year.”
By now it seems officials are beyond constantly calling the “points of emphasis” that various committees stress upon them at the season’s outset.
“For the most part, they're letting you play,” Anderson said. “So there's going to be some pushing and shoving and you've got to be able to push back or hold your ground.
"That's something we've got to do a lot better job of, whether it be at home or on the road.”
Anderson’s starting senior guards, Jaylen Barford, Daryl Macon and Anton Beard, combined to score 51 points, paced by Macon’s 26 against Kentucky, but collectively only netted four rebounds, while off-the-bench guards Darious Hall and C.J. Jones didn’t score in their combined seven shots and between them mustered only Hall’s lone rebound.
Against A&M, 6-6 freshman Hall’s seven rebounds led the Hogs, while Barford, Macon, Beard and sophomore Jones combined for 11.
The guards missing in action on the boards against Kentucky left little board support behind big men Dustin Thomas, Daniel Gafford and Trey Thompson’s combined 19 rebounds, 10 by 6-8 senior forward Thomas.
“We’ve got to come up with rebounds,” Anderson said Thursday of Saturday’s tussle in Tuscaloosa. “Our guards have got to rebound. Our guards (not) rebounding in the Kentucky game was a big, big difference in the game. So the little details of putting bodies on people… Alabama has got guys who can rebound above the rim. We’ve got to be able to put bodies on guys and get the ball and let’s see if we can get some things in transition.”
As for Sexton, he presents similar problems that LSU’s Waters presented only bigger.
“Similar in some ways, but Sexton (6-3 to Waters’ 5-11) is a little bit bigger,” Anderson said. “He's a rebounding guard (3.6) as well. Probably his quickness is what really separates him from a lot of guys. He's just a blur and very, very shifty with it.
"And he's very, very confident. An accomplished scorer, he averaged like over 30 points a game in high school. He’s capable of just taking over a game by himself.”
Anderson knows Sexton’s takeover abilities are most apt to take over if the Hogs allow the Tide to take over the boards.