FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Not much has changed since Arkansas hosted Missouri on Jan. 6 in Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas was coming off a stunning upset to LSU in an SEC road game that on paper looked like it would be a good chance at momentum. The topic of the day was Mississippi State trying to lure away offensive coordinator Kendall Briles.
At the end of the night, the discussion was how Arkansas performed against Missouri's zone defense.
So here we are 11 days later and Arkansas is coming off an SEC road loss to Vanderbilt that looked like it would be a good chance at building momentum on paper. The topic of the day is the reported mutual interest between Briles and TCU for the offensive coordinator position vacated by Garrett Riley after the national championship game.
At the end of the night on Wednesday, the discussion is going to be how the Razorbacks perform against Missouri's zone defense. That is unless Tigers' football coach Eli Drinkwitz shows up and does something strange that upstages everything happening on the floor.
However, if history is going to repeat itself, then Eric Musselman might be OK with that.
Arkansas needs a win however it can get it right now.
Two things stand out from that game beyond the surprise performance of Joseph Pinion.
1. Jordan Walsh played with confidence.
2. Arkansas moved the ball really well.
Midway through the first half, Arkansas trailed 25-8. It was looking bleak at best.
However, Walsh was calm. He worked his way to the middle of the lane, knocked down a few mid-range jumpers and was aggressive on the glass to get Arkansas moving in the right direction.
Walsh was the calm in the storm that settled everyone else down and got the ball rolling. Davonte Davis found a spark, Kamani Johnson did what Kamani Johnson does when he's feeling it, and Pinion played out of his mind.
By halftime, Arkansas had nearly evened things up while setting the table for Ricky Council to take over in the second half. It was a win that, had it not laid the blueprint for how to rattle the Razorbacks defensively, wold have been the bounce the team needed to make an early SEC run.
The second thing that stood out was how well Arkansas moved the ball. The guards found small creases in the zone through quick, crisp passing that set up a variety of mid-range shots and lay-ups.
As effective as the zone was, the insane speed at which Arkansas moved the ball created moments of space for the Razorbacks to get a shot off.
However, this is where the concern lies going into Wednesday night. Confidence has dissipated with key Razorback shooters to the point that wide open shots are passed up not with momentary delay, but prolonged pause.
If Arkansas is to pull off a win in Columbia, all the demons of the past two weeks that are haunting this team will have to be set aside. An opening has to generate a shot without hesitancy.
The final piece of the puzzle has to be generating possessions. That's how Arkansas pulled out the win against Missouri and it might be the key to clawing out a respectable record going forward.
The Razorbacks out-rebounded the Tigers 40-23. Scrapping for rebounds and forcing turnovers to create additional shot opportunities.
It's pretty simple math. If a team pulls down 17 more rebounds than the opponent and adds in 10 turnovers, that's 27 additional possessions. Even if Arkansas has a really off night and only shoots 40% from the floor, that's at worst 22 additional points.
That's like finding an extra $200 in the couch cushions on rent day.
That kind of work not only generates points, it creates energy and confidence.
A blue collar focus on being scrappy is how this team finally finds its identity and winning edge if it's going to happen this year.
That's a long way from the non-stop, high-flying highlight reel team that walked onto the court for practice this past summer.
But, if these young men adjust their mindset, retrain their brains, they can grow into something great.
It may not fill up Sportscenter segments, but it will fill up the win column.
Just like the two teams before.
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