The past four games haven’t been the prettiest for Hogs hoops. Ranging from underwhelming wins to a couple of uncharacteristic losses in Bud Walton arena. The games have dropped the Hogs about 10 spots in the KenPom rankings. When looking for reasons why, there are a couple of big reasons why the play has dropped off a bit, and they’re pretty obvious answers.
First, the Hogs are turning the ball over significantly more. The loss to Texas had a rough turnover percentage number of just over 22%. That combined with free throw shooting made the difference in the overtime game. Arkansas had looked to start to turn the corner with those, but the last three games it’s been a problem that’s come up again.
The Western Kentucky game didn’t have that problem, the turnover rate was in the single digits. The turnover rate has been over 20% in the past three games and that includes the game against UTSA where Jalen Harris had a 10-assist, 0-turnover game. The other four starters combined for 12 turnovers and the team had a rate of 20.8%. The 22.9% rate against Georgia Tech was the highest this season (nearly one turnover per four possessions) and was still over 20% against Texas State, enough to keep them in the game.
It’s no hot take to say that turnovers lose games, everyone knows that. But having four players (Daniel Gafford, Gabe Osabuohien, Reggie Chaney, and Desi Sills) with turnover rates over 20% is an issue. Isaiah Joe has a pretty good turnover rate of just over 12%. If he can develop into a better playmaker to help handle the ball alongside Harris, that can make the offense more dynamic and more difficult to defend.
This one is probably more obvious than the first, but equally important. If you don’t make shots, then you aren’t going to win. Arkansas has had an effective shooting percentage under 50% in each of the last four games. The only two games that were worse were the Texas game, a loss, and UT-Arlington which was nullified by the best defensive effort of the season by far.
Much like Jalen Harris needing help in the ball handling to alleviate the turnovers issue, Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones need some help in the mid to long range shooting. Without serious outside threat, teams can crash in on defense and make things really difficult for Gafford. It really showed in the Texas State game where Arkansas only hit three triples. It almost cost the Hogs but an extremely well timed three from Joe helped put the game out of reach. That game showed how dangerous things can get if Joe isn’t his regular self shooting on a given night. He’s an outstanding shooter, but even the best have off nights. Hell, the Golden State Warriors went 9/36 (25%) on Christmas Day and got blown out. It happens, but it’s less likely to happen when there are more options to shoot. If Jalen Harris could get out of his shooting slump, or Keyshawn Embery-Simpson can get above the 30% mark, that will help the entire offense run.
It’s not any secret what’s ailing the Hogs right now. The good news all of these things are fixable and are certainly being addressed in the short time leading up to SEC play.