When I think about this Hogs basketball team, the phrase “tough as nails” comes to mind.
Let’s make one thing clear. Eric Musselman has this team playing at a higher level than anyone has in the past couple of decades. That includes Stan Heath, John Pelphrey and Mike Anderson.
And, by the way, I watched the end of the game pitting Xavier against Mike Anderson’s current St. John’s team. It was as predictable as any Razorback game over the past 8 years. No rebounding. No ball movement. Another loss for Anderson’s team (now 11-4 on the season).
We’ve put a nail in the coffin of all but one of our 13 opponents. We’re 12-1. Some of those have been blowouts. Some have been come from behind efforts where we REBOUNDED after being behind, made clutch shots and free throws.
Texas A&M was the latest victim. In Saturday’s SEC opener, the Aggies hit a 3 with about 3.5 minutes to go. We didn’t let them score again and won by 10.
Eric Musselman has done in one game what Chad Morris was unable to do in nearly two seasons — win an SEC game. Don’t get me wrong. Anderson won plenty of SEC games.
HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY:
Granted, Anderson won plenty of SEC games.
But it seemed he put a team on the floor with little direction and told them to go play harder than the other team. It was a strategy of HOPING that we had more talent and that we would have a better night than the other team.
Here’s the problem with that. They have scholarship athletes too and they may just play better than us. But, if they’ve got the same level of talent as us and a better game plan to execute….. we lose.
We shoot the 3 on one end and deny it on the other. And, the bottom line is that a 3 here and a 3 there can make the difference in a season for a team like Arkansas.
We’re undersized, but we have perimeter players who can play. That’s our calling card. It’s who we have to be because it’s who we are.
NO PRIMA DONNAS:
A few games ago, Mason Jones poured in 41. He could he have said “feed me the ball. I’m our guy.” Instead, on Saturday night he picked up 17 points, which Isaiah Joe matched. But, he also had 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Joe, on the other hand, had 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. He also took his 9th charge of the year (team high). As a shooter, he’s really not expected to do that, but he’s done it because he’s a winner.
Adrio Bailey got hurt in the second half and picked up his fourth foul with about 13:00 to go in the game and never returned. For those who haven’t been living under a rock, Bailey is our inside guy (at 6’6”) who has blocked shots and put backs at critical moments.
Not to take anything away from Reggie Chaney, but we effectively won this game without Bailey. We want Bailey on the floor. Still, getting our first SEC win without him is impressive.
Texas A&M is not that great, but probably better than their record would indicate. They were 6-5 coming in, so let’s not get too excited. But, let’s be proud of what we’ve done so far. We’re 12-1. Our defense and clutch shooting has been especially impressive.
We’re making shots when we need them. We’re making free throws when we need them. We’re getting rebounds when we need them. Why? Because our players are being taught how important these things are in basketball. And they’re not getting passes on executing them over and over again in practice.
Look, I’m not saying we’re going to win the National Championship this year. Still, that seems like a reasonable goal if the program keeps improving at this rate in the coming months under Musselman.
He’s got the intensity of Michael Jordan on the sideline and it bleeds over onto the court. This is a program headed in the right direction!!!!