Heath Won't Mind If Team Keeps Seeing Zone

FAYETTEVILLE -- Opposing coaches are going to have to revise their scouting reports on Arkansas' perimeter shooting.

Hartford was the latest team to dare Arkansas to make outside jumpers by starting off in a zone defense and the Hawks paid the price by giving up the second-best 3-point shooting night in Razorbacks history.

Arkansas hit 13 of 20 3-pointers against Hartford (65 percent) in its 87-55 win on Thursday and the current team has posted three of the top four 3-point shooting performances in school history only 11 games into the season.

The Razorbacks shot 64.7 percent (11 of 17) against Winthrop in the season opener on Nov. 19 in the Paradise Jam and tied the all-time best mark with 66.7 percent (8 of 12) against Prairie View A&M on Dec. 18.

Apparently Hartford coach Larry Harrison didn't get to see tape from those games.

"If you look at their stats in their previous games, I've never seen them shoot the ball that well," Harrison said. "I've never seen them shoot from the perimeter that well. We started in zone because they shoot quick. They shoot it quick, but they haven't made a lot of shots."

At one point against Hartford, Arkansas was 12 of 17 (70.2 percent) and had a chance to break the record but hit 1 of 3 in the closing moments.

With their night against Hartford, Arkansas leapfrogged Ole Miss and Vanderbilt for the Southeastern Conference lead in 3-point accuracy.

Arkansas is averaging 44.1 percent (75 of 170) from the 3-point line, ahead of the Rebels (41.7) and the Commodores (41.4).

Although coach Stan Heath's outside shooters are hitting a good percentage of their 3-point attempts, the Razorbacks aren't in love with the long range bombs.

Tennessee State also started in a zone and Arkansas hit its first three 3-point attempts to get off to a 12-4 lead. The Razorbacks only tried 11 more from outside and only three in the second half of a blowout 96-68 win.

Arkansas is leading the SEC in percentage, but it is ranked in the bottom third of the conference in attempts.

"We shot our wad early," Heath said after the Tennessee State game. "But what I like about this team is we don't live or die by the 3. It's not our main weapon. If we make them, great.

"If not, we can make adjustments and take a midrange shot, go to the basket or can score inside."

Still, Heath isn't going to mind if teams want to stick with zone defense against his Hogs.

"They can keep playing zone all they want," Heath said after beating Hartford. "Our guys' eyes light up a little bit. It's almost one of those deals where they're trying to figure out, ‘Hmm, how do we want to attack it this time? Should we go inside-outside or do we want to penetrate and kick?'

"Sometimes we just throw it over the top for a lob. We're not worried about zones. We have a lot of ways to attack it.

"You can't sag back and give that to us."



80 A MAGIC NUMBER

Arkansas scored 80 points just seven times in Heath's first two seasons.

The Razorbacks have scored 80 or more seven times in their first 11 games in 2004.

Not surprisingly, Heath is 14-0 in games when Arkansas breaks the 80-point barrier.

Arkansas has enjoyed better offensive production this year with more balance between its perimeter and outside players. Guards Eric Ferguson (11.6) and Ronnie Brewer (16.2) are averaging double figures and swingman Olu Famutimi is scoring 9.9 per game.

Freshman center Darian Townes is averaging 15.5 points in his last four and guard Jonathon Modica scored 12.7 per game in the same span.

Freshman forward Charles Thomas is averaging 9.2 per game.

All six have led Arkansas in scoring at least once this season.

Heath believes his offense is catching up to his SEC-leading defense.

"We're doing a lot of executing in the halfcourt better than three or four games ago," Heath said. "We're making the extra pass, getting it in to the post, driving and kicking better. I'm pleased with where we are offensively. Sometimes, we don't run our lanes as hard and as wide as I'd like them to run.

"We can break that down on film and show them how we can get a lot more easy baskets."



PREPPING FOR SEC PLAY

Arkansas practiced Sunday night for the first time after a two-day break for Christmas and Heath said the focus will shift from a preseason mentality to a conference one.

Arkansas plays Jacksonville State on Wednesday and Louisiana-Monroe on Friday before hosting Ole Miss on Jan. 5.

Mississippi State beat Jacksonville State 95-53 and Ole Miss beat ULM 84-58 last week.

Heath wants Arkansas to clean up its ball-handling (the Razorbacks have committed 17 or more turnovers five times this year) and have occasionally been outrebounded in the first half by smaller teams.

"These next two are more lead-in games to our SEC," Heath said. "We're doing a lot of things pretty well. We're getting good balance inside and out. Turnovers can come back to haunt you.

"Rebounding hasn't been bad, but those are two areas when we start playing more athletic teams, more size, more strength, the rebounding and turnovers will become more of a factor."



UP NEXT BOX

This week:

Who: Razorbacks (10-1) host Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe

Wednesday: Jacksonville State (4-7)

Friday: Louisiana-Monroe (5-4)

Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville

When: 7:05 p.m.

Radio/TV: Arkansas Razorback Sports Network (Cox Ch. 8)


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