Jimmy Dykes admits he's active on social media, so it probably wasn't a surprise when his phone lit up after his Arkansas women's team won twice in Las Vegas over the weekend to finish a 6-0 December schedule.
There were texts, twitter mentions about the way the first-year head coach opened the season, especially after a 77-67 victory over No. 16 Iowa. Some came from his former colleagues at ESPN. Others were from coaching friends.
“I just hope they text me when I hit a three-game skid,” Dykes said, who then acknowledged that he knew the Iowa victory “would resonate.”
There was a congratulatory text from Arkansas men's coach Mike Anderson, to which Dykes replied, “I just try to get my players to play as hard as your players.”
For sure, Dykes has the Arkansas women competing fiercely. There are obvious signs on the stat sheet. Arkansas leads the SEC in rebounding margin at plus 18.8. Opponents shoot just 31.6 percent against the Razorbacks.
“We play hard for 40 minutes,” Dykes said Tuesday. “We are in very good condition and that shows up in our defense and with rebounding. We've also made great strides in offensive balance with four in double figures. We are versatile defending with two or three players able to guard multiple positions very well.”
The rebound stats deserved further explanation, but Dykes didn't point to any magical drills.
“We have one thing we work on,” he said. “We throw the ball off the backboard and work on catching it with two hands. That's it.”
Box out drills are not on the practice schedule. It's not that he is against them, but it's something that can lead to injuries.
“With just nine players, we can't do box out drills,” he said. “I'm afraid of injuries.
“But it is unusual that we haven't done any box outs drills. I will say that we have demanded rebounding. We harp on it in everything we do.
“When we dropped down to nine players, we just couldn't do it. We know we have to be smart as a staff. We do go really hard. And I think conditioning is a big part of rebounding. You get to the last 10 minutes of the game and you are not in great shape, you aren't going to pursue rebounds.
“We aren't big and I didn't see (the plus 18.8 rebound margin) coming, but I think 6-footers can rebound if they want to. The question remains, can we rebound when we wear down in January and February.”
But right now, he'll settle for what his team does Thursday and Sunday with South Dakota State and Rutgers, respectively, coming to town. It's part of an ambitious non-conference schedule that has the Razorbacks No. 1 in the NCAA's RPI.
“Obviously, it's just after the first month,” Dykes said. “But we have some hard games coming up. It's only going to get more difficult as we go. There are seven teams in the polls from the SEC.
“We are going to get knocked around, but that's great preparation for the SEC. We wanted a tough schedule. We were picked 12th in the league.”
Dykes isn't ready to think about the SEC. He expects South Dakota State to present a challenge.
“They are tall with a lot of 6-footers,” he said. “They play a different style of offensive system, tough to defend. We will have to earn it against them.”
The Razorbacks have earned respect from their coach so far.
“I'm proud of how we fight,” Dykes said. “We do go in stretches where we don't score, but we don't have stretches where we stop fighting.
“That fight and toughness shows up in rebound numbers and field goal defense. I think we are humble and hungry. I told our players that.”
Dykes also showed them how they won at Las Vegas.
“I showed them a tape on Sunday,” he said. “There weren't any 3-pointers on it. They were the first team on the floor for a loose ball. They took charges. They exploded off the floor for second and third chances on the offensive glass.”
There are some intangibles developing that Dykes likes.
“My nine players hold each other accountable,” he said. “I saw that in Las Vegas and I saw it in practice today. I saw them get after each other today. I see ownership. I'm going to get after them, but it's good when they see something and do it, too.”
Dykes was glad to see the ranking, a message to the players that they are doing things that others have noticed.
“I think it's important to have success,” he said. “I grind on them so hard. They have already given me so much. Now, I don't know how many we are going to win in the SEC – two, four or whatever. But I know they are going to fight. I know we are getting better.”
Dykes: Rebounding Impressive
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