Arkansas enters this afternoon’s game with a record of 14-2, 3-1 in the Southeastern Conference. The Razorbacks shoot a lot of 3-pointers and play a pretty up-tempo style, however it is their defense that has been the key to their early season success. Coach Eric Musselman’s squad is holding teams to 61.4 points per game which is third in the SEC and 30th nationally. Their success defensively has been led by their ability to shut opponents down from beyond the arc. Arkansas is the best in the nation at guarding the 3-point line, holding teams to just 22.8% shooting from deep on the seventh fewest attempts in the country. The Razorbacks rely on an 8-man rotation with their tallest start standing at just 6’6″. All four of their starting guards average in double-figures, led by Mason Jones at 18.1 points per game and Isaiah Joe at 17.8 per game. Bud Walton Arena is always a tough place to play and it will be rocking this afternoon as they try to take down Kentucky. Let’s dive in and go over the game plan on how to beat Arkansas.
#15 Mason Jones: 6’5″ 200 lbs, Junior Guard
18.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.6 apg
SHOOTER!!! NO 3’s!!! 91 of 181 shots have been 3’s. Have to be tight on him at all times and take away his 3-point attempts. Handles it a lot when he is in there. Will shoot the pull-up in transition. Will shoot them from deep too. Have to get out and pick him up early so he can’t dribble into a 3. Get over the ballscreens. Chase him off downscreens and get over the flares. Closeout to take away the 3’s. Make him drive it. Really wants to shoot the step back J when he starts driving it. Stay tight into his body so you can give a hard contest to the jump shot. Have to be there to contest everything. Absolutely no help off of him. Your only job when guarding him is to take away his attempts. Much better free throw shooter than finisher, don’t bail him out when he drives it. More shots than points for him.
#3 Desi Sills: 6’1″ 196 lbs, Sophomore Guard
10.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Lefty. Willing shooter. 70 of 144 shots have been 3’s. More of a driver than a shooter. No left hand drives! Be there to give a hard contest on the obvious catch-and-shoot 3’s, but he is only shooting 21.4% from 3. Don’t want to give up the left hand drive. Closeout a step short to keep him between you and the basket. You can mix up going over and hopping under the ballscreens. You can help off of him until he makes a couple. Still be ready to give him a good closeout to contest, but don’t get beat to his left. Not thinking about passing when he drives it. Wants to finish with his left hand. Make him score with you between him and the basket. No layups!!!
#1 Isaiah Joe: 6’5″ 180 lbs, Sophomore Guard
17.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 63/176 from 3
SHOOTER!!! NO 3’s!!! Absolutely no catch-and-shoot 3’s. 176 of 232 shots have been 3’s. Have to be tight on him at all times. When you are guarding him your only job is to take away his 3-point attempts. Absolutely no help off of him! Find him in transition. Will shoot them from deep. Have to pick him up well outside of the 3-point line. Extremely aggressive looking to squeeze them off. If he isn’t dribbling you aren’t close enough. Make him drive it!!! Chase him off downscreens and get over the flares. Be ready to switch if there is space when he comes off a screen. You have to take away his 3-point attempts!
#33 Jimmy Whitt Jr.: 6’3″ 175 lbs, Graduate Transfer Guard
14.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg
Mid-range jump shooter. Hard contest on all mid-range jumpers!!! Excellent from 15-feet and in. Don’t closeout beyond having your toes on the 3-point line and then bounce back to be ready for him to drive it. Only has attempted one 3-pointer. Once he starts to dribble it you have to get into his body and pressure him so that you can give a hard contest on his jumpers. Not necessarily looking to drive it all the way to the rim. Wants to shoot the jump shot! Pressure him once he starts to drive it and make him uncomfortable. Long and athletic. Very good offensive rebounder. Have to find him and box him out when the shot goes up. He is always looking for opportunities to cut and get the ball inside the 3-point line for a jumper. Treat him like a shooter if he is inside the 3-point line. Don’t help off of him if he is inside the 3-point line. Switch all ballscreens and handoffs that he is involved in. Stay tight on him.
#2 Adrio Bailey: 6’6″ 217 lbs, Senior Forward
6.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg
More of a driver than a shooter. No right hand drives! Just throw a hand up if he shoots it from outside. 5/13 from 3. Contest the mid-range jumpers. Strong. Good athlete. Physical driver. Wants to try to take advantage of larger defenders and drive it by you. Just stay between him and the basket and make him score over you. Help off of him when he doesn’t have it on the perimeter. Will ballscreen and roll or pop. Switch if there is space. Box him out when the shot goes up.
#5 Jalen Harris: 6’2″ 166 lbs, Junior Guard
4.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.4 apg
Backup guard. Will run the point a lot when he is in there. Willing 3-point shooter. 29 of 53 shots have been 3’s. Be close enough to give a hard contest on his catch-and-shoot 3’s. No right hand drives. Stay between him and the basket. You can help off of him some when he doesn’t have it, but be able to get back to contest it if he shoots and then bounce back to guard the right hand drive. You can mix up going over or hopping under the ballscreens. The deeper he drives it the more he driving to pass. Do not over help when he drives. Make him score over you.
#35 Reggie Chaney: 6’8″ 222 lbs, Sophomore Forward
3.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg
Backup forward. Strong and physical. He wants to score it around the basket. Right hand, left shoulder in the post. Mostly scores off of little dump off passes when the guards drive it. You can help off of him when he doesn’t have it on the perimeter. When you are guarding him around the basket don’t step up to help and give up an easy layup to him. Make him score over you. Bad free throw shooter. Foul if you are beat. No And-1s. BOX OUT!
#0 Jeantal Cylla: 6’7″ 215 lbs, Graduate Transfer Forward
1.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Stretch-4. Capable shooter. Be close enough to give a hard contest to the catch-and-shoot 3’s. If he makes one early we will treat him more as a shooter and stay even tighter. Once you take away the catch-and-shoot he will look to drive it right. No right hand drives. Will use the shot fake to try and get by you. Stay down on the fakes. Wants to finish everything with his right hand. Stay between him and the basket.
This is an offense that doesn’t really have a traditional post player. They are usually in 4-around-1 Motion with random ballscreens or Whitt Jr. working the short corners and high post area. They don’t necessarily fly up the court with the ball, but they like to throw it ahead to shooters in transition and will take the first available open shot. #15 Jones and #1 Joe have the ultimate green light and will shoot it anytime from anywhere. Their guys are very good at moving without the ball and good playing off screens in their half-court Motion. They are in their Motion offense most of the time, but they do still run a few set plays in the half-court.
4-around-1 Motion: In their traditional Motion one of their favorite actions is to have one of their shooters, in this case #15 Jones set a screen at the top of the key as another guard sprints off of it and curls it up to the rim. This can be hard to guard because you can’t give any help off the screener (Jones) or else he will just step back and shoot the 3. If they can’t hit the cutter for a layup then Jones steps back for a catch and the point guard cuts over top and usually gets a handoff, but here Jones decides to keep it which catches the defense off guard and results in an easy layup.
4-around-1 Motion: When are 4-around-1 the will have #2 Bailey do the ball screening and let #33 Whitt patrol the short corners and high post area looking for mid-range jumper opportunities. In this clip, after the middle ballscreen, Bailey rolls to the basket and the ball gets moved ahead to the right corner. As soon as the ball starts to get driven back to the middle you can see Whitt working his way towards the ball. He gets a handoff for an easy jumper. This is really hard to guard because it happens so close to the basket and is hard to see coming. The LSU defender gets stuck going under which keeps him from really contesting it. We need to switch ALL handoffs and especially the ones that happen inside the 3-point line.
Horns-Staggered Doubles: One of their favorite half-court actions that they run a couple times a game. They start in a Horns alignment and the point guard dribbles to his right to initiate the action. The two players at the elbows go to set a staggered double for the left corner. As the guard comes out of the corner he will either get a catch or curl on through and out the other side. They will then set another staggered double for the guard running the baseline. We have to chase them off the doubles and be ready to communicate the switch if there is too much space. No easy jump shots off this action.
Diagonal Screen-the-Screener: Point Guard hits #2 Bailey as he cuts to the top of the key for a catch. The ball gets swung to the right wing and Bailey runs into a ballscreen as the ball gets moved ahead. As he rolls to the basket he gets a back screen and they set a set a downscreen for Joe to try and get a 3. They are in to Motion at the end of the possession once they didn’t score on the screen-the-screener action. LSU gives Jones way too much room off a late ballscreen and he nails an easy 3.
Man-to-man defense that relies on ball pressure and their ability to switch and be interchangeable so they can stay between you and the basket. Pretty much everybody they play can guard all five positions for a possession. Their ability to switch whenever they need to has allowed them to be the best team in the country and defending the 3-point line. A lot of steals they get are more from on-ball pressure than from running through the passing lanes. Have to be ready for them to be up on you at all times. They will be fronting the post almost all of the time. This should allow us to drive it right at the post and be ready to throw the lob. That also should open up a lot of offensive rebounding opportunities.
Keys to the Game
- NO 3’s for #1 Joe or #15 Jones. We need to hold them to combined single-digit ATTEMPTS! Your only job when you are guarding them is to take away the 3’s. Make them drive it.
- Win the Rebounding Battle. Hold them to 5 or fewer Offensive Rebounds and for us to get to 10 Offensive Rebounds.
- Limit Turnovers. Take care of the ball. Be ready for ball pressure. Have to be strong with the ball. 11 or fewer turnovers is the goal.
- More Shots than Points for #33 Whitt Jr. He is GREAT from the mid-range. You have to get into his body and pressure him when he is inside the 3-point line. Be ready to contest everything! Switch all ballscreens and handoffs that he is involved in. Great contests. More shots than points.