BASKETBALL: Free Throws Not Automatic For Hog

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas has shown lately that shooting free throws is not always an easy way to score points.

The Razorbacks have struggled over the past two games from the free-throw line, and it went so poorly Wednesday night that coach John Pelphrey said his team "missed all our free throws, basically."

Not exactly, but it wasn't good.

Arkansas made only 11-of-20 free throws in the first half of its 93-71 loss at No. 4 Tennessee, and the Hogs needed a better showing after halftime just to finish 18-of-29 for 62.1 percent from the free-throw line.

"It's just a lack of focus. ... In practice, we shoot ‘em with our eyes closed," Arkansas forward Sonny Weems said Thursday afternoon. "It just a matter of us getting up there, manning up and just making ‘em."

Arkansas' struggles came after the team made only 19-of-32 free throws in last Saturday's 75-69 win over Ole Miss in Bud Walton Arena. That included missing 5-of-8 attempts in the first half.

The Razorbacks rank sixth in the Southeastern Conference in free-throw shooting percentage at 68.5 percent, but that number has dropped to 67.2 percent in league play.

"I by no means have all the answers with that. I think shooting is fickle in the first place," Pelphrey said of his team's recent struggles from the free-throw line. "In some games, you have guys step up there, knock them all down. Got to have them.

"In the first half (against Tennessee), it was awful and it wasn't one guy. I think it was across the board a little bit there."

Hansbrough Returns

Arkansas must deal Saturday with a Mississippi State player who didn't take part the first time the two teams faced on Jan. 30 — guard Ben Hansbrough.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore missed Arkansas' 78-58 win in Bud Walton Arena because he had mononucleosis.

But Hansbrough has returned, and he helped the Bulldogs cruise to an 83-64 win at Auburn last Saturday by scoring 20 points and making 4-of-7 3-pointers.

"He's an experienced guard, tough, got good size, can play multiple positions and he's got a skill at shooting that basketball," Pelphrey said. "He's capable of changing games."

Hansbrough ranks fourth on MSU in scoring at 10.4 points per game.

Shot Selection

Pelphrey didn't seem to mind that Weems attempted 17 shots against Tennessee, eight more than the next closest Arkansas player.

As far as Pelphrey is concerned, there is not a big need for other Razorbacks to get more shots.

"In the four-game winning streak, there wasn't any talk about that," Pelphrey said, referring to Arkansas' winning streak that came to an end with Wednesday's loss at UT.

"So we can break it down if you want to break it down. The bottom line is we want guys to score and we want to get more points than our opponent. We want to play defense and rebound and not really get consumed (with) who does that."

Weems shot 8-of-17 for a team-high 20 points, but there was a considerable drop-off after that. Arkansas' other four starters combined to attempt 19 shots, making just five.

Backup forward Darian Townes took the second-most shots, going 5-for-9 for 12 points.

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