Favorite

Bullish on Hog baskeball 

It's getting a bit alarming, but Pearls is starting to be effusive about the state of men's basketball at U of A, and that's kind of a rarity of late. Finishing 2013 with optimism was something we all hoped would be in the form of an overachieving football team scrapping for a win in a low-end bowl game, or a flourish of late-season commits, but listen, we'll take what we can get.

And what we've gotten, so far in 2013-14, is a hardcourt squad that is already more energized and focused than anything put on the surface of Bud Walton in years. The Hogs rose to 8-2 with a Thursday night drubbing of Tennessee-Martin, 102-56, and it was quite unlike the prior week's cupcake diet that we dissected in this space previously. Arkansas was sharp from the get-go in every facet, exploiting a size advantage and swishing seemingly every shot. Ball movement was crisp, spacing was perfect, and the whole thing had a machinelike feel to it.

Don't mistake the Skyhawks for a completely easy mark, as they had won four of five games coming in and probably felt like the Savannah State template could be cribbed with favorable results. But Tennessee-Martin came onto the floor and got swept up in a maelstrom of aggression led by Coty Clarke, who registered a couple of early jumpers and then converted a traditional three-point play to stake the Hogs to a double-digit lead only five minutes in.

Clarke's unsteady play to date had been just about the only thing we could categorize as a disappointment, and even then, the feeling was pretty marginal. But the 6-7 senior has too many unique gifts as a player, a terrific physical tenacity at both ends complemented by a worthy enough perimeter touch. Sensing that he had to start earning Mike Anderson's trust again, Clarke pounced on the opportunity and ended up with his best showing of the season so far (15 points on 7-9 shooting, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks). He was a handful all over the court and would've easily amassed a double-double had he been afforded more minutes.

It wasn't just Clarke working the low blocks, either. Moses Kingsley came off the pine to have the finest game of his young career, posting 12 points and 12 rebounds, and what seems to be an emerging trend for the freshman is his uncanny smarts around the rim. He hasn't logged a lot of minutes yet, but he's appreciably careful with the ball in congested areas, avoids silly fouls, and shows a little touch that is about a year or more ahead of what was expected. Kingsley copied Clarke's mega-efficiency with a turnover-free line that also included three blocked shots, and just in case he and Clarke didn't keep the interior edge sharp enough, there was Bobby Portis with another stalwart effort (15 points, nine rebounds and three assists).

So here was a game where three guys essentially bore the frontcourt burden for a night, again providing Alandise Harris with some relief as he labored a bit. Harris came out this season like a house afire and has cooled sharply in December, but he remains vital to the team's long-term progress. If a four-player inside rotation can get any two or three working well at a given time, then the foundation for a good performance is always going to be in place. The smart money down the line is for Harris and Clarke's experience to essentially be the ballast so that Portis and Kingsley can still have their freshmen moments, and if all four are getting in productive outings now, then Anderson cannot help but feel satisfied.

That leaves the backcourt, which as already stated here, is in markedly better shape now that Mike Qualls and Rashad Madden are in high gear from a development standpoint. They were each good for a respectable 11 points against the Skyhawks, and that largely came in the form of open looks after halftime when the game was already well at hand. But yet again, the ancillary support surged in, too — Fred Gulley even had a nice little game with a couple of jumpers, Kikko Haydar made his usual couple of treys, and even Rickey Scott was useful on some occasions.

With these pistons firing like they are, it's no surprise that Arkansas is verging on closing out nonconference play with a healthy 11-2 mark, and if that happens, the Hogs are burgeoning with swagger at the right time. Past seasons left us with a lot more mysteries at this point even if the record was still relatively clean. This team's got chemistry or a reasonable facsimile thereof building, and it's all going to be put to the test with the first week's worth of SEC games being at Texas A&M and then in Fayetteville for Florida and Kentucky, back to back.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

  • Bobby Portis takes the headband off

    July 30, 2015
    The former Razorback considers his future. /more/
  • Bobby and the Bulls

    July 2, 2015
    This is the time for our end of second-quarter report for Arkansas athletics, and it's a generally glowing one, certainly and refreshingly free of things like sex, lies and motorcycle accidents. /more/
  • Big on Benintendi

    May 21, 2015
    The spring has been, if nothing else, an unprecedented one for Arkansas Razorback individualism. Bobby Portis took his justly due hardware as SEC Player of the Year and now hopes to parlay that into a first-round selection by an NBA team that wants to develop his considerable skills for a couple of years. /more/
  • Life without Portis, Qualls

    April 30, 2015
    The reason college basketball fights desperately to recapture its erstwhile appeal, despite some excellent games in this NCAA tournament and those before it, is multifold. What happened to the Razorbacks' roster, for instance, is a tacit illustration of many issues coalescing in one hotspot. /more/
  • Michael Qualls to leave Razorbacks for pros

    April 15, 2015
    Michael Qualls joins Bobby Portis in opting for professional basketball over another year with the Razorbacks. /more/
  • Razorback Bobby Portis to enter NBA draft

    April 14, 2015
    By Twitter comes the largely expected news that Razorback basketball star Bobby Portis will pass up more time with the rising team to go pro. Money talks. /more/
  • The blueprint

    March 26, 2015
    When the final seconds of an unusually dynamic and impassioned college basketball game ticked away, and a season of restorative value for Arkansas's long-beleaguered program ended, the moment for reflection that a turbulent schedule had delayed finally came. /more/
  • Pass to Portis

    March 10, 2015
    As I craft this week's Pearls, the news that Arkansas sophomore wunderkind Bobby Portis was correctly tabbed SEC Player of the Year has crept across my metaphorical ticker. /more/
  • The Kentucky era

    March 3, 2015
    Arkansas was probably not well equipped to defeat Kentucky over the weekend, just to be thoroughly blunt. At the outset of Saturday's much-anticipated game, the Wildcats scored on a lob dunk within the first 10 seconds, and then seemingly strangled all possible momentum away from Arkansas anytime it dared attempt creation thereof. /more/
  • Hogs play team ball

    February 26, 2015
    The dearth of team cohesiveness had killed Arkansas basketball in recent years. "Hawgball" more or less died because in-house friction led to on-court product that bore the evidence of dissent. Not to pick on any individual players, but you never sensed that in the last years of Nolan Richardson's regime or Stan Heath's or John Pelphrey's respective tenures that the players did the so-called "buy-in" or cared much about team unity. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions?
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Basketball prospects

    While it is a little difficult to prognosticate on anything pertaining to college basketball anymore, short of the blue bloods getting bluer every recruiting season, what has happened to Arkansas since it finished off an accomplished 2016-17 campaign is probably as subtly bewildering as any offseason machinations you'll see.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Summer hopes

    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • 'Cemetery angel' Ruth Coker Burks featured in new short film

    Ruth Coker Burks, the AIDS caregiver and activist memorably profiled by David Koon as the cemetery angel in Arkansas Times in 2015, is now the subject of a short film made by actress Rose McGowan.
  • Buyer remorse

    Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.
  • Not Whitewater

    Just think: If Democrats had turned out 78,000 more votes in three states in November, people could be reveling today in the prospect of impeaching and convicting President Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, as some Republican lawmakers had promised to try to do if she won.
  • Head-shaking

    Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions?
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Basketball prospects

    While it is a little difficult to prognosticate on anything pertaining to college basketball anymore, short of the blue bloods getting bluer every recruiting season, what has happened to Arkansas since it finished off an accomplished 2016-17 campaign is probably as subtly bewildering as any offseason machinations you'll see.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Summer hopes

    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The edge of night

    • The eclipse would be the perfect time to place the holy goat on the Capitol…

    • on July 27, 2017
  • Re: The edge of night

    • I would hate to plan on a site only to find it cloudy or raining…

    • on July 25, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation