After watching Oklahoma drain 13 of 22 3-point attempts on Dec. 11 in its 88-66 rout of his Arkansas team, Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman has a new approach to guarding the long-distance shot.
“When you close out, put a hand in the eyeballs,” he said. “I adjusted that, and now your hand has to be above the eyeballs. Then maybe they’ll end up getting to the eyeballs.”
Musselman will get to see Saturday night if his 24th-ranked team can make the adjustment when it takes on another dangerous 3-point shooting squad, Hofstra, in North Little Rock, Ark.
Arkansas (9-1) fell 12 spots in this week’s Associated Press poll after its lopsided loss on a neutral floor in Tulsa. The Razorbacks not only played poor perimeter defense, but they also shot badly, connecting on just 21 of 61 attempts from the field (34.4 percent).
Aside from converting 16 Sooners turnovers into 24 points and hitting 17 of 18 free throws, Arkansas did nothing well enough to win. The Razorbacks were outrebounded 36-29 and had more turnovers (14) than assists (10).
Musselman is treating the week between games as though it were a training camp like he used to run during his days as an NBA coach.
“This is for the long haul, how we’re constructing practice,” he said. “We want to win the game Saturday, no doubt. But we’re going to make a mark in their brains and hearts on what it’s like when you lose here. We’re not going to ease up in practice this week. I can promise you that.”
JD Notae leads four Razorbacks in double figures at 18.1 points per game, but he hit just 3 of 14 attempts against Oklahoma and scored 13 points. Au’Diese Toney scores 12.4 per game, sixth man Chris Lykes adds 11.8 and Davonte Davis is up to 11.4 after pouring in 26 in the loss to the Sooners.
Meanwhile, Hofstra (6-5) comes in off a 102-51 blowout of Division III John Jay at home on Sunday, the 1,300th win in program history. The Pride hit 14 3-pointers and canned 52.6 percent of their field-goal attempts.
Hofstra’s calling card is the one thing that Musselman is out to defend better — 3-point shooting. The Pride average 10.7 3-point makes per game, converting an acceptable 36.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Zach Cooks’ 17.4 ppg lead five Pride players in double figures. Jalen Ray hits for 13.8 ppg and connects on 45.7 percent of his shots from the 3-point arc. Hofstra averages just 10.1 turnovers per game and scores nearly 80 points per contest.
“We had two good days of practice,” Pride coach Speedy Claxton said, according to Newsday, following the Sunday game. “This wasn’t about John Jay. We wanted to get back to playing Hofstra basketball and playing the game the right way.”
The Pride have come close twice this season against Top 25 programs on the road. They took then-No. 15 Houston to overtime in the season opener before falling 83-75, and they led then-No. 20 Maryland down the stretch before absorbing a 69-67 loss on Nov. 19.
Arkansas has won both prior meetings with Hofstra, but the teams haven’t played since 1978, when Sidney Moncrief scored 29 points in a 95-70 victory in Pine Bluff, Ark.
–Field Level Media