FAYETTEVILLE — To shake up his struggling starting lineup, Mike Anderson just looked down the Hall.
So last Saturday at Walton Arena against the Missouri Tigers freshman guard Darious Hall started his ever Razorbacks game while senior star guard Daryl Macon came off the bench for the first time in Arkansas’ 17 games.
The shakeup worked from start to finish.
Grabbing the game’s first rebound for an Arkansas team mired in 17 and 21-point deficits in preceding 88-77 and 75-54 SEC losses at Auburn and to LSU at Walton, Hall’s 4 for 4 from the field, 10 points, five rebounds and two steals first half keyed Arkansas’ 36-28 intermission lead peaked at 30-12.
Macon finished Arkansas’ 65-63 job. Of his game-leading eight assists, Macon dished five in the second half. Macon’s lob to Daniel Gafford for the 6-11 El Dorado freshman’s screen and roll dunk breaking a 63-63 tie with 57 seconds left became the 65-63 game-winner. Macon tied Gafford for Arkansas’ team-leading six rebounds.
For starters, Hall, the 6-6 athlete from Little Rock Mills, brought fresh starting energy that Arkansas obviously had lacked.
The freshman fared well off the bench nonconference then looked lost and not ready for SEC prime time during his three minutes with three turnovers stint when the Razorbacks opened their SEC campaign edging Tennessee, 95-93 in overtime Dec. 30 at Walton.
However while the Hogs took their January losses during their 3-game SEC skid at Mississippi State, at Auburn and home against LSU, Hall increasingly improved
So why not give him a chance to be the starting shot in the arm?
“Darious came out and started and I thought Darious played well and gave us some quality minutes,” Anderson said.
Gafford appreciated the fellow freshman’s fresh infusion.
“He’s an energy guy,” Gafford said. “I walked up to him before the game and said, ‘Since this is your first time starting you’ve got to go out and give it your all. You’ve got to leave it all on the court.’ And that’s what he did.”
““He plays like it’s his last game every time,” Macon said. “I’ve got to give it to him, he played awesome tonight.”
Bringing Little Rock Parkview and Holmes (Miss.) Community College grad Macon off the bench certainly wasn’t a demotion for his second-leading scorer, 15.8 average including 33 points in Arkansas’ SEC season-opening victory over Tennessee, Anderson explained.
“I don’t know how they see it, but we’ve got eight or nine starters,” Anderson said. “The key is playing time. You look at it he (Macon) played 26 minutes and was very, very effective. He probably played some of his better defense going down the stretch. And that’s what we’ve been talking about is our defense. Offensively, Daryl did a great job orchestrating screen and rolls for Daniel.”
Macon was asked about the pick and roll ending in the Gafford bucket. The questioner wondered perhaps it was more layup than dunk.
“To start that off, it was a dunk,” Macon said, as Gafford alongside him on the interview room platform laughed. “Second … I just found him on the roll. It was open all night. I kind of didn’t see it until the second half when he came to me and told me. That’s something that I think we should do more often because he’s open. It’s hard to guard when you’ve got a guy that athletic, and then you’ve got a guard coming off that can score. It’s hard to guard.”
Anderson said Macon’s ability to score allowed Gafford open.
“There are times when Daryl can come off that screen and he’ll knock a shot down or he’ll get into the lane and get somebody to foul him,” Anderson said of what Mizzou was trying to prevent. “They were trying to push him (Macon) to one direction and that allowed Daniel to slip to the basket. They took what the defense gave us.”
Their next step is seizing any advantage given in a true road game.
The Razorbacks, 12-5 overall, 2-3 in the SEC, are 91-65, 78-75 and 88-75 losers in true road games at Houston and the SEC games at Mississippi State and Auburn.
The Florida Gators, 12-5, 4-1, loom in Wednesday’s 6 p.m. ESPN2 televised SEC game at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville.