After a humbling road loss to No. 20 Iowa State on Thursday night, No. 18 Arkansas has to turn around and go right back out on the road again on Sunday.
But Razorback head basketball coach Mike Anderson is actually thrilled that Arkansas (6-1) has a game on Sunday at ACC foe Clemson (4-3) at 4 p.m.
“As usual in the last couple of weeks we have got a quick turnaround,” Anderson said Friday. “Hopefully we will get the taste out of our mouth of the Iowa State game. They played well and we probably played the worst half we played this year.
“Especially from the defensive standpoint,” Anderson added. “We gave up 52 points and that's not like us. You have got to go back to the drawing board and hopefully get your team prepared for a Clemson team that plays well at home.”
The Razorbacks had won four of its last six road games dating back to last season, but the Cyclones shot 64 percent from the field, 50 percent from the 3-point line and jumped on Arkansas early.
Iowa State put all five starters in double figures and looked like a team that many national experts feel is a top 10 team nationally and a legitimate Final Four contender after getting to the Sweet 16 last season despite having their best player.
“I just think we weren't locked in,” Anderson said. “We let them do what they wanted to do. They dictated the tempo of the game. Defensive pressures, especially in the half court, we had a lot of breakdowns whether they slipped screens - they were prepared and they made shots. Our closeouts were almost not getting to guys and making them put it on the floor.
“…We tried to mount an attack coming back and we cut it to 11 and it just seemed as we kept going uphill they kept making plays,” Anderson added. “You have to give them credit. They shot the ball well. They did what you are supposed to do at home. You are supposed to take care of home.
“And I'll say it again, that first half was probably the worst we played and I will take the blame for that because I didn't have our guys keyed in on the things we have to get done,” Anderson added. “I thought we could have played a lot better. But we will learn from that game.”
Arkansas senior Rashad Madden and junior Michael Qualls combined for nine of their team’s 13 turnovers.
“Teams are going to get after them and going to be physical with them,” Anderson said. “As you evolve as a player, you have got to meet that challenge. For those guys, that was our second test on the road. Iowa State came out on the attack and I thought we were on our heels and it was on full display.
“Hopefully it is a lesson learned from those guys,” Anderson added.
Another lesson to learn is that Arkansas needs to win with defense, not offense per Anderson.
“We’ve got to get some guys to turn their attention to defense,” Anderson said. “You can’t come out with the mindset of trying to win the game on the offensive side of the ball. And I really felt the first half that’s what we were trying to do.
“ We were trying to come out and outscore Iowa state in the first half as opposed to sticking with our DNA, which is our defense,” Anderson said. “Whether it be full court, half court. Even more so, half court. And so the dribble penetration is the thing that really bothered me. We didn’t fix things on defense. So we’ve got to get guys out there that are going to fix things on defense so when our defense does break down out on the floor.”
Anderson said his team was obviously disappointed in its performance.
“They're very disappointed,” Anderson said. “ I don't think they felt that was their team. I thought they, like we were moving a half-step slow. Like I said, we let Iowa State dictate the game. Just, I thought our defense was really soft. I really really do. Whether that was the atmosphere. Was it our guys engaged in taking out the game plan? I'll take the blame for that.”
Clemson comes into this game off a 69-64 home loss to Rutgers, who scored just 26 points in its previous game.
The Tigers have had five of their seven games decided by five points or less and have led with 10 minutes left in the game in all seven contests.
“Our minds have gotten away from what helps us win,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “We haven’t defended at a very high level most games. We have had some very good first halves. But we’ve struggled in the second, where sometimes we have difficulty scoring and it breaks our will a little bit.”
Senior shooting guard Damarcus Harrison (11.9), 6-10 junior center Landry Nnoko (11.6) and redshirt sophomore forward Jaron Blossingame (11.3) - who has posted three straight double-doubles - lead the Tigers in scoring.
“You have got to go back to the drawing board and hopefully get your team prepared for a Clemson team that plays well at home,” Anderson said. “Defensively they want to pack the paint so you have got to make shots and at the same time, they want to grind it out. We are looking forward to the opportunity to play again. It's another test.”
Brownell also is looking forward to the game.
“We schedule these types of games to attract energy and atmosphere,” Brownell said. “This is one of the premier programs in the country; they’ve won a national championship. This isn’t an easy game to schedule. We hope our fans will come out and support us.
“…“It will be an entertaining game,” Brownell added. “Arkansas plays high-possession games, so it will be more up and down. We’ll need to make some good decisions in this game.”
The Clemson coach is a big fan of Arkansas’ Bobby Portis and Qualls.
“Bobby Portis is an out of this world talent,” Brownell said. “He’s 6-10 and can shoot. Michael Qualls is a fantastic athlete and perimeter scorer. Rashad Madden is a senior point guard. It’s an older team, one with experience. Offensively, they move the ball and are very unselfish.”
Arkansas freshman guard Anton Beard defends Iowa State's Monte Morris.
Arkansas, Clemson Looking Forward To Match-Up
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