Coach Mike Anderson switched up his starting lineup for the first round matchup leaving both Anthlon Bell and Michael Qualls on the bench. It was reported by ESPN that they were late to a team meeting after the team arrived in Maui. After only playing eight minutes in the last two games, Ricky Scott got the start along with Mardracus Wade.
The lineup didn’t pay off for the Hogs as they started the game 1-8 from the field before Anderson subbed in Harris and Bell after the first media time out trailing 10-3. Anderson's message was received well by Bell who hit two of his first three shots to tie the game up at 10-10 with 11:58 left in the first half.
California’s 2-3 zone limited the Hogs offensively in the first half. The Hogs shot 35% from the field in the first half, but only trailed 34-32 going into the break. It felt like Arkansas was down by more because California led for 15 minutes in the first half. If any of Arkansas’ future opponents watch film of this game, the Hogs will see a lot of zone the rest of the season.
It is apparent that Bell has an Al Dillard-like green light, and a shot selection that mirrors Stefan Welsh. Simply put, he isn’t afraid to pull up for a three on a fast break. Not the best shot selection, but Bell did make a couple like that today.
A couple of Jabari Bird threes to start the second half gave Cal their biggest lead of the game up to that point with the score 47-39 with 15:59 left in the game. It felt like every time Arkansas cut the lead to five, California would respond and get it back to 10.
An Arkansas basketball player boxing out has become rarer than an Arkansas defensive back turning around to find the ball when defending a pass. Cal’s forwards David Kravish (19 pts, 15 rbs) and Richard Soloman (11 pts, 7 rbs) were too much for the interior of Arkansas. The absence of another 6’ 10’’ guy that could compliment Bobby Portis is one glaring weakness for this Arkansas team.
The Razorbacks were out rebounded by 19. This has been a common theme throughout the Anderson era and nothing new to Arkansas fans. Cal grabbed 21 offensive rebounds. No one wins many games when they give up the legal drinking age in offensive rebounds. Portis reminded us that he is still a freshman. He went 1-5 from the field with five points and one rebound. I think he had even less box outs than he did rebounds.
There is a lot of misguided frustration towards the basketball team because of the status of the football program. This basketball team has clearly improved; they just weren’t able to get over the hump today against California. No, this isn’t a team that mirrors the 90’s, but it also isn’t a team that mirrors the ’08-’09 squad that went 2-14 in SEC play. They aren’t going to go winless in conference. They aren’t going to get blown out game after game.
Arkansas will play
the loser of Syracuse/Minnesota tomorrow at 1pm CT on ESPN2.