Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports
It's sold out Bud Walton (but not quite full)! It's Kentucky (overrated Kentucky but still)! It's CBS (cool)! It's the return of Archie "Business Decision" Goodwin (unpleasant welcome)! What a great day!
There's no telling how many basketball games I've watched in my life. Much of what I've watched over the last 20 years is forgotten, and what announcers have said during games barely registers by the end of the game, much less decades later. But one thing I always remembered from watching analysts dissect one of the great Bulls' teams of the late 90s, was that although the Bulls didn't make a very big percentage of their shots in some game, they won because offensive rebounding and turnovers allowed them take a lot more shots than their opponent.
The theory is simply that the more shots you take, the more you make. That's basically what happened on Saturday in Fayetteville. Thanks to a 19-7 advantage in offensive rebounds and 7-18 advantage in turnovers, Arkansas took a staggering 26 more shots than Kentucky. The Wildcats' field goal percentage was over 10% higher than the Razorbacks, but Arkansas made four more field goals thanks to the additional opportunities they provided themselves.
Marshawn Powell alone took 18 shots with the aid of six offensive rebounds. He led the Razorbacks with 15 points. BJ Young also broke out of his slump with 13 points. Coty Clarke had a huge game with 14 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. Rashad Madden and Kikko Haydar contributed 8 points apiece, combined for 10 rebounds, and neither committed a turnover.
Regarding Madden, it should be noted that for the first half of the season he was often criticized for sloppy, turnover-heavy play. Madden was suspended for the South Carolina game but in the 10 games since then has not had a single multi-turnover game and is now second on the team in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.5. Actually, since the suspension his ratio is 4.6 (23 assists, 5 turnovers). That national leader in assist/turnover ratio is Trey Burke's 3.57, so Madden is quietly playing terrific basketball.
I'll argue that while Madden is still not much of a scoring threat, he's beginning to develop into a more reliable point guard role, making smart decisions with the ball and helping the team win. I think you can sense more confidence in him just watching him play. He was dribbling with more flair while going up the court through traffic today. He only played 23 total minutes in the Georgia, Florida, and LSU games but played 24 against Kentucky, which hopefully is a sign of things to come.
Otherwise it was a pretty routine afternoon. Arkansas still took way too many threes. Against Kentucky they were 6-for-25. Just imagine how good Arkansas could be if they didn't waste 15 shots a game. The Wildcats only took 14 despite trailing most of the game. So it can be done.
The win guarantees Arkansas at least a .500 record in conference play, which hasn't happened since 2008. The Razorbacks are tied with Tennessee for 6th place in the conference, and do hold the tie-breaker over the Vols. Ole Miss (with an absolutely putrid loss to Mississippi State today) and Missouri are tied for 4th place a game ahead of Arkansas, and Alabama and Kentucky are tied for 2nd place, two games above Arkansas. So there still could be a lot of shuffling for the SEC tournament over the two games still to be played this week.
But still, there's a part of me that always wants to beat Kentucky because of the wars of the early/mid 90s, so today was incredibly sweet.