The Razorbacks are quickly proving that while they aren't a great team, which no one expected them to be, they also aren't a terrible team. They've proven they can score points and can play well outside of Bud Walton Arena. The problem is they haven't shown they can top too many people yet.
It didn't always look like the Hogs would have much of a chance to beat Wake Forest. Arkansas indefensibly gave up 48 first half points, and faced a 14-point deficit early in the second half. Watching Mike Anderson's teams on the road - last season excepted - didn't leave anybody with much faith in the Hogs to come back at that point, but they did. Perhaps last year's success really did rub off on the players still on the team because they came all the way back and twice took the lead inside the last 10 minutes.
Facing a double-digit deficit with under 12 minutes left, Arkansas went on a 14-2 run to give them a one-point lead on an old fashioned three-point play by Dusty Hannahs. From that point on, both teams knocked down shots to keep the game close but preventing anybody from pulling away. The Razorbacks made seven consecutive field goals during that stretch, but cooled off at the very end, making two of their last eight shots. Anthlon Bell narrowly missed a three at the buzzer that would have sent the game to overtime.
Wake Forest hit 40% of their three-point attempts, and this is the stat that's quickly proving to be Arkansas' biggest problem this season. This isn't the first time perimeter defense has been a problem for a Hogs team, and it's fair to point to losses of bigger guards like Ky Madden and Michael Qualls defending up top, but, through seven games, this is the worst three-point defense of any Arkansas team dating back at least to the Nolan Richardson era.
Arkansas opponents are hitting, just like Wake Forest, 40% of their shots beyond the arc. That's among the very worst in the nation. The worst any Razorback team has allowed in recent memory is 38.6% by the 2006 team. John Pelphrey's disastrous 2009 and '10 teams, which featured smaller guards than what Arkansas has now, allowed 36.9% and 37.2% three-point accuracy, respectively.
After watching the usual non-conference blunders around the SEC this season, I haven't seen anything that convinces me Arkansas has to finish at the very bottom. I think the Hogs can win some games, but they have to do better at guarding the perimeter. The good news is that's something that can be improved.
Against Wake Forest, Arkansas had some really solid performances. Jabril Durham scored nine points and dished eight assists while turning the ball over only once. He also had three rebounds and three steals. He's had a really strong start to the season so far.
Hannahs and Bell scored 15 and 13 points, respectively. They combined to go 11-for-28 from the field. Moses Kingsley scored 15 and grabbed seven rebounds in 24 minutes. He really needs to be on the floor much more than 24 minutes. Especially with Trey Thompson out, Arkansas just doesn't have any depth in the frontcourt behind Kingsley. Willy Kouassi scored six points and had two blocks in his 13 minutes, but only grabbed one rebound, which is not very good for him.
Arkansas won the second half, 46-40. They only committed eight turnovers. They stayed pretty even in rebounding, 36-33. The Razorbacks did a lot of things right, but gave up too much in the first half and didn't make enough plays at the very end.
The Hogs still haven't won outside of Fayetteville, but they've had opportunities to win, and that's probably more than many expected going into this season. They face a solid test next week in Fayetteville against a 6-1 Evansville team that provides a nice opportunity for Arkansas to pick up a good win and get back to .500.