We're a month into the season now, and this game against Savannah State perfectly sums up what Arkansas has been like this season. Crazy inconsistency. After a really terrible first half in which they led the Tigers by just two points, the Hogs completely dominated the second half by a 45-18 margin.
After the first few games of the season, it seemed Alandise Harris, Coty Clarke, and Anthlon Bell would be the team's leaders this year. After the last few games, it looks like it will be Michael Qualls, Rashad Madden, and Bobby Portis. If the Hogs can ever get all these players, who've all had stretches of great play this season, to peak at the same time, the Razorbacks will be a scary team. But so far this season it seems there is simply a different player stepping up each night instead of the team playing consistently together each time out.
Tonight, Arkansas had 61 points when Rashad Madden checked out with 3:23 to go, and Madden was responsible for 21 of them. Insane. Who would've thought that Arkansas would ever be in a situation where Madden would be responsible for over a third of Arkansas' points? Even if you expected him to come in and have a much improved year, it never felt like he'd be capable of being a great scorer, but he's been highly efficient the last few games, and shot 8-of-11 against Savannah State.
It's time to start wondering, is this the Madden we'll get for the whole season? He's scored in double figures now in five of the last six games. And those aren't just cupcake games. That includes the entire Maui trip. He also has a solid 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio during that stretch. Is he finally living up to his 5* status out of high school? That would obviously be huge for the Hogs if that became the case.
Portis was the other leading player for the Hogs. He had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds (also had 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal). He seems to really be settling into his role after a shaky start to the season. And Clarke had one of his better complete games with eight points and ten rebounds.
It has to be said, Rickey Scott is also playing well as of late. After getting a couple of DNP's during the last two Maui games, it seemed like he might rarely see the floor this season, but in the last three games he's averaging a reliable 6.3 points in 11.67 minutes per outing on 8-for-11 overall shooting. He also had one of tonight's game's best highlights when he led a fast break after a turnover, and got to the rim with amazing quickness and force for a big dunk. He's clearly one of the best overall athletes on the team. There's still a chance he could be solid contributor this season.
Things aren't looking so good for his classmate Mardracus Wade. After playing in over 100 consecutive games, Wade sat out his second consecutive game of the year. Wade is one of the best shooters on the team and can play defense, but is apparently struggling right now for whatever reason. As a senior with a reliable stroke from the free throw line (and occasionally from anywhere on the floor) he still has potential to be a weapon this year, but it appears he's not quite there yet.
No getting around it. The first half was ugly. And there's no excuse. It doesn't matter that Michael Qualls was held out until halftime (Anderson said after the game he was late for a practice, so he didn't play until after halftime). It didn't matter that finals are going on. It didn't matter that it's icy outside and the crowd was weak. Arkansas should be able to blow out Savannah State even if they just played five Kikkos for the whole game.
And it wasn't just shooting. Arkansas was outrebounded by the Tigers in the first half 21-18. That's inexcusable. The Tigers are a bad MEAC team whose players are so small they only listed one player's height in the game notes (That's true. Forward Jyles Smith is 6'8". No other heights are listed.) And they outrebounded Arkansas in the first half. The Razorbacks easily won the battle in the second half, but if there's one stat Arkansas really needs to work on during these creampuff December games, that's it.
Savannah State is a really bad team and it does Arkansas absolutely no favors to have them on the schedule, but they did, and hopefully it built some experience and momentum for the future.