Hogs cruise past Mount St. Mary’s in another pedestrian effort

Arkansas junior guard Jaylen Barford

The Arkansas Razorbacks closed out the first month of their basketball season Monday with an 89-76 victory over Mount St. Mary’s.

While the score and the stats would indicate a solid performance, the game was a fairly pedestrian affair, offering little excitement and nothing to ease fans’ fears that they are in for another less than captivating season.

Take that opinion with a grain of salt if it sounds too cynical. Last week was a rough one for Hog fans.

Mike Anderson’s hardwood Hogs took a blistering 85-71 whipping at Minnesota last Tuesday with an effort that looked more like a high-caliber pick-up performance than a well executed game plan.

Bret Bielema’s football Razorbacks followed that up last Friday by sleepwalking through the second half of their regular-season finale with Missouri. The Tigers outscored the Razorbacks, 21-0, in the second half and won, 28-24, but the Hogs were complicit in their own demise, making a host of penalties and mistakes that left them with a mediocre 7-5 record.

Add both of those losses together, and it’s enough to leave even the most optimistic fan more than a little bit bummed.

But I digress.

The basketball Hogs are now 4-1 on the season, while Mount St. Mary’s fell to 1-7. The Mountaineers hung around in the contest thanks to good ball movement and decent three-point shooting. The Mountaineers hit 10 of 29 three-pointers for 34.5 percent. Overall, Mount Saint Mary’s shot 44.3 percent from the field.

The Mountaineers’ shooting forced the Razorbacks out of their preferred man-to-man defense for a while, but Arkansas’ depth began to wear on them in the second half. As fatigue set in, the Razorbacks extended their lead to double digits. Arkansas led by as many as 21 before posting the 13-point victory.

“Some of the things I wanted to see in his particular game, I saw,” Anderson said. “We cleaned up our turnovers and talked about sharing the basketball and I thought we did a much better job at that. We played a lot of guys and got efficient minutes out of them. I thought Dustin Thomas was the highlight guy in the first half. He was on the receiving end of a lot of nice passes, rolled to the basket and was able to finish around the basket. It was good to see us attack inside.”

It continues to be disconcerting to watch Moses Kingsley take and miss jump shots instead of attempting to post up inside and demand the basketball. Kingsley proved to be a decent shooter from 15 feet last year, but opponents would much rather him shoot jumpers and be out of position for rebounds and put-backs that going down low.

If Kingsley wants to be a true offensive threat, he needs to post up and let the Razorbacks run their offense through him. He would get better shots, more free-throw opportunities, and create better shots for his teammates with more inside-out action. Kingsley is also a good interior passer, but unless he posts up, that skill goes unused.

Arkansas guard Daryl Macon: “Tonight, we played with a lot more confidence on the offensive end. We played our game and we weren’t thinking about it. Last week, when we played Minnesota, we were thinking about our shots and hesitating. Tonight, we went out there and played with a lot of energy and played our game and offensively good things happened for us.”

Arkansas senior guard Dusty Hannahs is known as a shooting specialist, but that’s just an aspect of his all-around game. Hannahs curled left from the top of the key drawing a defender. He then fed a driving Dustin Thomas who scored on a nifty finger roll with 5 minutes remaining in the first half, giving the Hogs a 33-23 lead.

The Razorbacks got a balanced scoring effort with five Hogs scoring in double figures and two other scoring at least eight points. But Dustin Thomas was the most efficient, scoring 13 points down low on 6-of-7 shooting. He also grabbed five rebounds and had an assist.

Macon led the Hogs in scoring with 15 points. Jaylen Barford scored 13, Hannahs had 12, Anton Beard added 11, Moses Kingsley scored 9 and Manuale Watkins contributed 8. Beard and Watkins got their first starts of the season.

The Razorbacks outrebounded the Mountaineers 41-30 with Kingsley leading the way with 13 boards. Watkins grabbed 6 rebounds, while Trey Thompson and Thomas each pulled down 5.

After suffering 21 turnovers and having only 8 assists in their 85-71 loss to Minnesota, the Razorbacks all but reversed those numbers against Mount St. Mary’s with 20 assists and 7 turnovers. The latter are winning numbers, but you have to consider the opponents.

The Razorbacks will be busy playing three games in the next week, all at Bud Walton Arena. The first comes at 8 p.m. Thursday against Stephen F. Austin in a game that will be televised by the SEC Network. The Hogs host Austin Peay at 7 p.m. Saturday in a game to be live streamed on watchespn.com. The Razorbacks then play host to Houston at 6 p.m. on Dec. 6., in another SEC Network-televised game.