FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ bench outscored South Carolina’s bench 28-17 when the Razorbacks defeated the Gamecocks on Feb. 3 at Walton Arena. Arkansas pays a visit for Thursday night’s SEC rematch at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.
However, in last Saturday’s 84-67 loss at No. 1, undefeated Kentucky, the Razorbacks’ bench took a back seat way back.
Two Kentucky reserves, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis, with 7-foot Kentucky reserve center Dakari Johnson but contributing three rebounds and an assist, outscored Arkansas’ second five, 24-7.
“Our bench is capable of playing much better,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said, challenging his bench to do better Thursday at South Carolina. “Kentucky’s bench outplayed our bench.”
Anderson wasn’t nearly so concerned with how little his reserves scored against Kentucky as how they were so often scored upon.
“I want to see our guys come in and get after it from a defensive standpoint and hopefully we can create some offense for our basketball team,” Anderson said. “That is going to be a big key in this game. The depth, defending and rebounding the basketball is going to be big in this particular game.”
While reminding his reserves what they did against South Carolina and didn’t do against Kentucky, Anderson isn’t dwelling much on the Kentucky game as motivator, given the confidence his 18th-ranked Hogs (23-6, 12-4) have mustered, winning seven consecutively and 10 of their last 11 before becoming Kentucky’s 29th victim going into the Wildcats’ Tuesday night SEC game at Georgia.
“You have got to get that out of your system,” Anderson said. “That game is over with. Learn from it and move forward. We didn’t shoot the ball well. You have got to shoot the ball when you are talking about the No. 1 team in the country. If you don’t make shots it’s going to be a long night because they defend so well.”
Arkansas defended well as South Carolina shot an abysmal 17 of 61 at Walton, but the Hogs better not bank on that in Columbia, Anderson warns following the Gamecock’s Tyrone Johnson scoring 28 during last Saturday’s 81-68 SEC rout of Mississippi State.
“It was probably a combination that we defended well and they didn’t make shots,” Anderson said. “They had some open looks. The last three games three ballgames they have been making shots. The Johnson kid had a career high the other night they played. We know they can defend. So if they make shots, that makes them double tough.”
Although 5-11 in the SEC, coach Frank Martin’s Gamecocks are 3-4 since losing at Arkansas and completed a home-and-home sweep over Georgia defeating the Bulldogs, 64-58 on Feb. 17 in Athens, Ga.
With heavy snow predicted today for Fayetteville, both Anderson’s Razorbacks and coach Jimmy Dykes’ Razorbacks women left town ahead of schedule Tuesday.
The men practiced earlier than normal Tuesday and were set to fly out of Columbia late Tuesday afternoon and work out today at Colonial Life Arena.
Dykes’ women headed Tuesday to North Little Rock where they will play their first-round SEC Tournament game against Ole Miss at noon Thursday at Verizon Arena.
Arkansas sophomore forward Jessica Jackson of Jacksonville returns close to home as a second-team All-SEC player, the SEC Office announced Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala.
Jackson, leading Arkansas women with a 14.6 scoring average, averages 18.1 points and 8.1 rebounds for her last eight games, has paced Arkansas to a 16-12 overall and 6-10 SEC mark.