FAYETTEVILLE — While the Arkansas basketball team’s start to conference play has been rocky, to say the least, fans saw an incredible upswing in momentum with a blowout of Mizzou on Wednesday, and a tough win against LSU on Saturday.
The main reason for that shift lies solely on the shoulders of the defense. In Wednesday’s win over Missouri, Arkansas held the Tigers to just 43 points, a season-low, and forced 23 turnovers on Cuonzo Martin’s team.
Of those 23 turnovers, 13 of those were steals, and 6 came on blocked shots. What that shows is that much of Missouri’s lack of offense came almost exclusively from the tenacious Arkansas defense.
Remember when people acted like Missouri was a garbage program and the only reason we won was because of that? Well, that’s partially true, but if you look at the Tiger's other games in SEC play, it tells a different story.
Just four days prior to the beatdown in Bud Walton, Mizzou scored 92 points against a nationally-ranked Alabama team. They lost to Texas A&M in the final minutes on Saturday but led by double digits for most of the game.
Coach Musselman has always put a focus on defensive effort, and the last two games (and the last ten minutes of the Texas A&M game, even though it ended in a loss) have shown that Arkansas is committed to shoring up the defensive side of the basketball.
Yesterday’s game in Baton Rouge was even more evidence of the Hogs’ defensive prowess. LSU scored 58 points in the game, which is their second-lowest in a game this season.
The previously-12th ranked Tigers held an eight-point advantage with nine minutes left to go in the game, 56-48. From that moment, LSU would score two points for the rest of the game.
There are issues to be fixed by this team, there is no doubt about that. The team needs to fix their turnover issues, and the shots need to start falling, but as long as the defense can continue to perform at a high level, Arkansas will turn things around.