FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas coach Mike Anderson wants his team to be aggressive.
It’s one of the basics in his up-tempo, full-court system.
But Anderson said the Razorbacks were too aggressive defensively during last Saturday’s 79-61 win against Northwestern State. The proof was in the 26 personal fouls called on Arkansas, which led to 42 free-throw attempts by the Demons.
So correcting the problem has been a big emphasis on the practice court this week as the Razorbacks (8-4) prepare for Saturday’s game against Delaware State (6-8) in Bud Walton Arena. Anderson said Arkansas was guilty of playing defense with its hands on too many occasions, which resulted in plenty of unnecessary fouls.
“Our hands were working instead of our feet,” Anderson said. “So now, the last few practices, we’ve been working on just playing defense with our feet.”
Anderson said one method used to help curb the foul trouble was a Wednesday scrimmage, where the team’s student managers served as referees. While guard Mardracus Wade stressed some of the fouls called during the scrimmage weren’t violations, the workout helped as Arkansas prepares for conference play.
“We have to clean that up because we don’t want to go into SEC play fouling those good teams, putting them on the line and getting momentum going,” Wade said.
The 26 fouls committed by Arkansas last Saturday was its third-highest total this season. The 42 free throws was a season-high allowed, topping the 38 by Wisconsin.
“It’s just paying a little more attention to detail,” Anderson said. “It’s amazing with this team here, whatever you emphasize they try to do the right things. So hopefully there’s a carry-over when we get to the game.”
Arkansas struggled on the boards during its loss at Michigan on Dec. 8. But the Razorbacks have held the rebounding edge in every game since.
Anderson said the improvement has been a big part of Arkansas’ four-game win streak. The Razorbacks have won the battle on the boards by an average of 11.8 rebounds a game during the streak. It included a 57-41 advantage last Saturday.
“It’s just a focus. I think it’s a commitment by our team,” Anderson said. “I think it’s not only our forwards, but our guards. I think it’s not only our forwards, but our guards. The last game in particular. We got two guys in double figures rebounding. One of them happened to be a guard, which is good. I think you’re seeing it game-to- game - different guys starting to assert themselves.”
Forward Hunter Mickelson and guard BJ Young each set career highs with 13 rebounds in the Northwestern State win. Anderson said Arkansas’ improvement on the boards must continue as it moves closer to conference play.
“We’ve got to be a team,” Anderson said. “We’re not one of those teams where, ‘Hey, you can go get me 15 rebounds. You can go get me 12.’ We’ve got to do it by committee. So our guards, our forwards, guys coming off the bench. They’ve got to really put their bodies in there and rebound the basketball.”
Arkansas guard Ky Madden has been limited to 26 total minutes the past three games because of nagging ankle injuries. But Anderson said the sophomore has practiced this week, undergone treatment and should be “fine” for Saturday.
Madden has started nine of Arkansas’ 12 games this season and is averaging 5.3 points and 2.7 rebounds a game. He was scoreless in five minutes against Northwestern State, leaving the court after rolling his ankle on a drive to the basket.