Guarding The Three Is Key

FAYETTEVILLE — Far too frequently the past three games, the Arkansas Razorbacks have left shooters open beyond the 3-point arc. When they happened to actually get a hand up, that didn't help much, either.

In losing three straight games, Arkansas' 3-point defense has faltered. Mississippi State drained 11 of 27 shots from 3-point range. Ole Miss drilled 7 of 17. Florida converted 11 of 30, including 8 of 13 in the second half.

The pure quantity of those outside shots has driven Arkansas coach John Pelphrey crazy.

"It's frustrating," Pelphrey said. "We emphasize the 3-point line, and we talk about taking 3-point shots away. We've had a tough time guarding the 3, or we've had the misfortune of guys making a lot against us.

"The bottom line is, the 3-point line has hurt us."

Arkansas ranks 11th in the SEC in 3-point defense at 34.3 percent entering today's contest against Auburn. And while that would normally worry Pelphrey, their defensive struggles concern him even more because of the nature of the Tigers' offensive attack.

Like previous foes such as Mississippi State and Florida, the Tigers sport a lineup with four capable 3-point shooters on the floor. And they certainly aren't shy about flinging up 3s from all over the court, especially since Auburn coach Jeff Lebo feels his team shoots them "better than we've shown."

The Tigers have taken more 3s than any other SEC team, and despite making only 32.3 percent of them, they will present multiple matchup problems for Arkansas.

So if the Hogs want to avoid a devastating 0-4 start in the Southeastern Conference, they'll need to locate every Tiger other than post player Korvotney Barber. They'll have to close out not only on Auburn's guards, but also on its "power forwards" — 6-foot-5 Rasheem Barrett and 6-6 Lucas Hargrove.

"We will need to force them off the 3-point line and make their 3-point shooters be drivers," Arkansas freshman Rotnei Clarke said. "We need to make them get to the hole instead of letting them settle for an open 3-point shot."

Pelphrey said he didn't think the Razorbacks had been terrible at guarding the 3-point line in their three consecutive losses. Sometimes, he said, great defense can still result in a 20-some foot swish from an opponent.

He also added that defensive rebounding ranked just as important as pressuring 3-point shooters. Florida converted several of its second-half 3s immediately after snagging offensive boards.

"(Nick) Calathes and little Erving (Walker) hit some shots you don't make a high percentage of," Pelphrey said. "It wasn't like the guys were totally standing there by themselves. They missed a lot of 3-point shots but they got 16 (offensive rebounds). We have to chase down balls."

Not getting to those loose balls reveals a lack of intensity sported recently by the Razorbacks. Many of these problems pertaining to 3-point defense, Pelphrey said, could be remedied with increased effort.

He said the Hogs needed to get back to the type of non-stop hustle they sported throughout their 10-game winning streak. Only then, he insisted, could numerous areas be fixed, including their awful 3-point defense.

"I think we have (taken a step back with hustle plays)," Pelphrey said. "There's no question about that. I think we've probably been on the floor less than anytime all year long, and we haven't rebounding the ball as well as any other time all year long."

Today's Ticket

Auburn at Arkansas

When: 12:05 p.m. TV: KHOG (Cox channel 7, Cox HD channel 707)

Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville

Records: Arkansas, 12-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference; Florida, 15-2, 2-0

Radio: KEZA-FM 107.9, KKEG-FM 92.1, KUOA-AM 1290, FM 105.3

Coaches: Auburn, Jeff Lebo (68-71, 5th season; 183-143, 11 seasons); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (35-16, 2nd season at Arkansas; 115-82 overall in 7 seasons)

Series: Arkansas 23-13 (15-2 in Fayetteville)

Last Meeting: Arkansas beat Auburn 77-64 on March 8, 2008, in Fayetteville

Bombs Away

Auburn has taken more 3-point shots this season than any other Southeastern Conference team. The Tigers aren't exactly the most efficient, ranking ninth in the league in 3-point percentage. But that hasn't kept them from launching away at will.

Player 3PT-3PTA 3PT Pct.

DeWayne Reed 34-93 36.6

Tay Waller 51-142 35.9

Frankie Sullivan 19-58 32.8

Lucas Hargrove 12-37 32.4

Rasheem Barrett 8-36 22.2

Quantez Robertson 9-44 20.5

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