Going into Wednesday's LSU game freshman guard Anthlon Bell appeared to be just what the Razorbacks needed to pull off their second SEC road win of the season. The kid can shoot.
In Arkansas' previous two games Bell had scored 17 points in a home win over Georgia and 14 on the road at Florida. Against LSU he logged just thee minutes of playing time missing the only shot he put up. Compare that to the play of sophomore guard B.J. Young who scored just four points with six turnovers in 28 minutes on the floor.
So why was Bell glued to the bench?
"I probably screwed that up more than anything else," head coach Mike Anderson admitted to reporters the day after the game. "He's been playing with a lot of confidence but we had some guys that were knocking some shots down early for us. Anthlon got out there and it was a period where they just bombarded us. The lead went from maybe nine points up to eighteeen, twenty points."
"But you'll see him," Anderson added. "You'll see him playing."
As for Young, Anderson addressed a couple of issues with his game. "He's got to be able to knock down some shots," Anderson stressed. "Last year he shot over 40 percent from three-point land. He's not shooting the ball with the same efficiency he shot last year."
"People are targeting him," Anderson also noted. "That's a big part of it. They're going to pack it in there. You've got to be able to say, 'Okay let's let Marshawn (Powell) make that shot for us.' If B.J. is not shooting for us he has to be able to do other things."
Bell's bench time and Young's lack of productivity may have been obvious to the fans but Anderson saw a bigger reason for the loss.
"Everybody's thinking about shooting and all that," Anderson pointed out. "It was about defense. Especially in the first half when we dug a hole. They had wide open shots. We dug out of it but where is that urgency from the git-go?"
Turnovers were the other killer.
"The dissappointing part is it's something we value," Anderson complained. "We value the basketball. It seemed like everytime we got the lead down to maybe seven points we'd turn it over for no reason at all."
The loss put the Hogs in a position where they need a home win to keep their fading post season hopes going. Saturday's opponent is a Kentucky team that lost 6-10 freshman forward Nerlens Noel to an ALC tear against Florida on February 12. Noel was projected as the top pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
The 'Cats not only lost to Florida they followed that game up with an 88-58 loss to Tennessee. But they've bounced by with three straight wins at home heading into the Arkansas game.
"I think they're getting over the inital shock of not having Noel," Anderson noted. "They're a balanced team. Five or six guys in double figures and I think they're starting to hit a stride."
The game is scheduled to be played at 3 p.m. on national television in front of a sellout crowd of 19,200 fans in Bud Walton Arena. Says Anderson, "I imagine it will be a great atmosphere. We've been pretty good at home and our fans have been great at home and we'll see how we respond."