21 Jan

Hogs are Better In SEC Road Games Than At Home. How Rare Is That?

moses kingsley

A troika of seniors also led the last Razorback team to start conference playing better on the road than at home.

 

The ’98-’99 team had a rough SEC home start, but a helluva finish.

Road struggles have defined the Razorback basketball program through much of the 21st century. In the glory years of the late 1970s through mid 1990s, the Hogs were nearly invincible at home while winning their fair share of road games. In the 21st century, they have still been one of the SEC’s most dominant home teams but constant road woes have often sunk them into mediocrity.

This year, though, these 21st century trends are changing, for better and worse.

First, the good news for Hog fans: Their team has begun winning road games at a rate similar to that of the 1990s Nolan Richardson-led teams. Since 2014, Arkansas is 11-10 on the road in SEC play. Arkansas had gone 16-81 in the previous dozen seasons before that.

The problem: In the last two years, the program has been anything but invincible at home.

The result is a strange inversion of the Razorback’s usual 21st century mojo: This 2016-17 team has lost two of its first three SEC home games, while winning two of its first three SEC road games.

That’s very unusual.

Indeed, in the last 69 years*, only one other Razorback team has gotten off to a better start on the road than at home in the first six conference games of the season. That team, the 1998-99 Hogs, spent most of that season ranked in the Top 25 (no higher than No.18).

Those Hogs won their first SEC contest of the season — a road game — against LSU 80-75. It then lost on the road to Auburn, then ranked No. 14, 83-66.

Here’s how its next four games panned out:

(Home) Ole Miss, L 76-65

(Away) Mississippi State W 61-59

(Home) Georgia, W 82-79

(Home) Alabama, L 67-60

Those Hogs were stocked with All-SEC caliber seniors in Pat Bradley, Derek Hood and Kareem Reid. Their experience and tenacity was critical to allowing the squad to squeak out those road victories. This Hogs team also showcases three important seniors: Dusty Hannahs, Moses Kingsley and Manny Watkins.

Hannahs and Bradley fulfill similar roles on their respective teams, as do Hood and Kingsley. But nobody on the team has been able to harass opposing point guards, while consistently staying in front of them, like the ultra-quick Kareem Reid.  These Hogs’ inability to contain quick guards killed them in home losses against Florida and Mississippi State, and in the second half against Kentucky.

Former Razorback Blake Eddins, who began playing under Nolan Richardson in 1999-2000, recently joked this year’s team needs “a couple of defensive stoppers like Pat Bradley and Blake Eddins in there, to really bend their knees and get that butt down and show them how to play defense.”

“I’ll say this: I would have clotheslined a guy if he had a wide-open fast break layup. And that’s about all I was good for,” Eddins told Pat Bradley, now a sports radio co-host, on 103.7 The Buzz FM.

It’s difficult to imagine Dusty Hannahs — or newcomers Daryl Macon or Jaylen Barford — playing with this kind of Charles Oakleyeque defensive tenacity. But Barford and Macon do have the needed quickness to become much more effective one-on-one defenders, while Watkins and Anton Beard, though not as quick, have long flashed Kareem Reid/Corey Beck-like defensive effort.

It’s just a matter of putting it together in longer stretches, and specifically against the SEC’s best point guards.

That 1998-99 team ended with a fantastic home stand, beating No. 6 Kentucky and No. 2 Auburn in its final two SEC home games. It later made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Manny Watkins knows this is the last chance for he, Kingsley and Hannahs to make a similar statement.

“It’s our last year,” he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “The sense of urgency is through the roof. In order to win, you’ve got to do things and it has to be from your seniors.”


*Only one team during the Razorbacks’ SWC days won at least two of its first three road conference games while losing at least two of its first three home conference games. That would be the ’48-’49 Hogs, which ultimately finished 9-3 in conference as SWC champs.

** Arkansas isn’t the only SEC team struggling at home this season. Through January 20, SEC teams are a combined 18-21 in home SEC games . (h/t to Blake Eddins)

african-american arkansans

Includes how NLR native Eddie Miles almost became the first black Razorback in basketball 

17 Jan

Nowitzki of the Gridiron? Hunter Henry to focus on football

January 16, 2012 - Pulaski's Hunter Henry (41) drives to the basket defended by Briarcrest's Austin Nichols (44) during their game Monday at the FedExForum. (Nikki Boertman / The Commercial Appeal)

Pulaski Academy, the top-ranked team in 4A, lost its first game on Monday, falling to Briarcrest Christian School 70-54 in the Martin Luther King Basketball Classic in downtown Memphis. Junior guard Brandon Brady led the Bruins (13-1) with 15 points. Sophomore guard Marcus Wallace added 14 points. Two players scored 14 points for Briarcrest (12-4), an east Memphis private school. The 5 p.m. game was played at the FedEx Forum but the teams had arrived more than five hours earlier to watch the Memphis Grizzlies play the Chicago Bulls. Bruins head coach Roger Franks said he scheduled his team’s game through the help of a friend who works for the Grizzlies, and was excited his players got the chance to watch elite basketball.
I visited the Bruins, who were seated in the nosebleed section, in the second half. Here are some highlights:

 Hunter Henry focusing on football in college

  Henry, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior, is used to playing a pivotal role for the Bruins as the football team’s star tight tend. But in recent weeks, he’s shouldered more of the scoring burden for the basketball team because of teammate Dusty Hannahs’ injury. Henry estimates he has been scoring about 20 points a game and around eight rebounds, and added his favorite NBA player is Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki. “I like to base my game off his. I’m a post man who likes to play out on the court.”
Henry is a high Division I recruit in football, but with his recent on-court success would he consider also playing basketball in college? Nah. He’s almost certainly going to devote himself to football.      “Your time’s so occupied” as a Division I student-athlete, he said. “I’m gonna choose one and do it. Commit my time to it.”

Dusty Hannahs shooting for return to court next week

  Hannahs, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard, was having a memorable senior season – averaging in the upper 20s – before hurting his right wrist six games ago. He hasn’t played since then, but despite his cast has still practiced his dribbling and left-handed (off-hand) perimeter shooting. He’ll return to his doctor Thursday and if the cast is removed, as expected, he should resume playing early next week. Hannahs is burning to get back onto the court after the layoff. But as we watched the Grizzlies pull away from the Bulls, I learned something else motivates him – Sacramento King rookie Jimmer Fredette’s background.
Hannahs said Fredette, the collegiate national player of the year last season at BYU, is one of his favorite players. “He has a killer instinct, he shoots well and is my size,” said Hannahs, a Texas Tech signee. Fredette was a 2-star recruit during high school, just like Hannahs. Dusty knows he has a  2-star ranking (out of a maximum five stars) on rivals.com and scout.com, and allows that to motivate him. “I laugh about it” and then get to working, he added.  When it comes to excelling at a high Division I program and making the NBA, Fredette “shows me that if he can do it, maybe I can too it if continue to work hard.”

 Scalabrine sighting!

  On Monday night, Bruin teammates Hunty Henry and Jack Snider rolled into downtown Memphis and had a little time to enjoy the scenery. They visited Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken and Blues City Cafe. At the cafe, the Bruins bumped into some Bulls when Chicago teammates Brian Scalabrine and Omer Asik (pronounced “Ah-shik”) entered. “We talked for a few minutes and got a pic,” Henry recalled. “It was fun.”