Stifling Hog Defense Cripples Commodores
The Arkansas men’s basketball team cruised to a 56-33 victory over Vanderbilt Saturday, behind 31 points between two Razorback starters.
The game began with a Marshawn Powell steal that lead to a breakaway dunk, one of six steals Powell managed to nab.
Such was the story for the rest of the game, as constant pressure from the Arkansas defense forced 26 turnovers.
Vanderbilt only managed to score one field goal in the first 17 minutes of the game as the youthful Commodores constantly struggled with the Hogs’ stingy full-court pressure.
Powell outscored the entire Vanderbilt team in the first half 12-11 by shooting 6-6 from the field after having zero points against Texas A&M last week. However, the rest of the Razorbacks struggled early, shooting 4-20 in the first half.
“It was good to see him show up and play like he was capable of playing. His presence on the court was huge for our team,” said head coach Mike Anderson about Powell.
In the second half, it didn’t take long for fellow members of the Razorbacks to get involved. BJ Young started out the second half on a mission, scoring the Hogs’ first 12 points of the period as they further padded their already overwhelming lead.
Young finished with 14 points, three rebounds and three assists while not seeing much action late in the second half as the game was already well in hand.
Vanderbilt struggled against Arkansas in nearly every aspect. The Commodores eclipsed their turnovers-per-game average with nearly nine minutes remaining in the first half.
That, combined with abysmal 3-15 shooting, added up to 11 first half points, the lowest allowed in a half at Bud Walton Arena since Florida A&M in 2011.
Vanderbilt shot 2-15 from beyond the arc for the game, thanks to defense on the perimeter by the Razorbacks.
“That was a big emphasis for us, keeping them off the 3-point line,” Powell said.
“We had a lot of defensive pressure and a lot of energy, and that is going to rattle teams,” Kikko Haydar said.
Haydar once again proved his worth with a key performance for the Hogs, chipping in 19 key minutes with a 3-pointer and four rebounds, while simultaneously harassing Vanderbilt’s top scorer Kedren Johnson. Things got chippy at one point between the two as Johnson’s frustration boiled over, giving Haydar the upper hand mentally.
“He may have the best basketball IQ on the team. He leaves everything out on the floor, and guys respect that,” Anderson said.
Johnson ended up leaving the game with six minutes remaining with an apparent arm injury, finishing with five turnovers and a season-low three points.
Ever the perfectionist, Anderson decided to mix things up once again in the starting lineup, inserting Fred Gulley into the guard spot that is usually occupied by Mardracus Wade. This is the fifth different starting lineup Anderson has used this season, and he gave no indication that philosophy will be changing anytime soon.
“I thought he did a good job of directing and does things defensively that really help our basketball team,” Anderson said about Gulley.
Vanderbilt seemed like a completely different team than the one that pushed Kentucky to the final seconds on January 10 before losing 60-58. Road games are not easy for younger teams especially in the hostile Southeastern Conference, something Mike Anderson knows well after a tough loss at A&M on January 9.
“I was real disappointed in our play in about every way,” said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings.
The Razorbacks are now 10-5 and 1-1 in the SEC, and continue their homestand against Auburn Wednesday. Vanderbilt drops to 6-8, 0-2 in the SEC.
“The race is just beginning. This is the SEC,” Anderson said.