FAYETTEVILLE — Mike Anderson issued a Feb. 24 bench warrant for appearance at the court of Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Anderson’s bench, a key ingredient in Arkansas’ 94-75 victory the previous Saturday against Texas A&M by outscoring the Aggies’ bench, 23-8, was charged last Tuesday with failure to appear in Fayetteville. Kentucky’s bench outscored Arkansas’ bench, 38-6 in the Wildcats’ 87-72 rout of the Razorbacks at Walton Arena though the first half closed knotted 43-43.
In last Saturday’s 76-73 SEC success over the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, the Arkansas bench not only appeared but warranted Anderson’s high praise.
“Our bench which we always talk about as so important, they really played well for us today,” Anderson said postgame.
Arkansas’ bench outscored Alabama’s bench 22-11. And that was with its literally biggest producer missing his only shot. Trey Thompson, the Madison native and Forrest City High grad and biggest big man on the bench listed 6-9, 265, split down the middle 20 minutes and 20 minutes with 6-11 freshman center Daniel Gafford of El Dorado.
Obviously Thompson didn’t match Gafford’s 11 points, but he exactly matched Gafford’s seven rebounds, so critical to Arkansas outrebounding Alabama 36-28 after Kentucky nailed the Razorbacks to the boards, 46-29. And it was Thompson, not a guard, leading Arkansas with five assists in Tuscaloosa.
“Trey Thompson, what can you say?” Anderson said. “Five assists and seven rebounds. I don’t think he even scored a point but he had an impact on the game. You look at his stats, man, Trey was really big in this game.”
So was Adrio Bailey, the 6-7 sophomore forward whose playing time had started to dip with the emergence of 6-8 freshman reserve Gabe Osabuohien then, flu afflicted plummeted to three games not used and just two minutes against Texas A&M.
In Bailey’s 13 minutes in Tuscaloosa, he joined Thompson as Arkansas’ only shot-blocker, both blocked one, grabbed five rebounds and hit 3 of 4 shots from the field and sank his only free throw to complete a 3-point play.
“Adrio Bailey who hasn’t played much, I thought he was huge for our basketball team,” Anderson said. “Adrio Bailey came in gave us really great minutes.”
As for points, nobody scored bigger off the bench than C.J. Jones, the Arkansas sophomore who scored 13 off the bench the previous Saturday against Texas A&M, zip against Kentucky shooting 0 for 4, including 0 for 3 on treys, then scoring 13 against Alabama including 3 of 3 on treys among his 5 of 7 from the field.
While Jones’ previous two games were home games, last Saturday was a homecoming. He’s an Alabama native from nearby Birmingham.
“C.J comes home,” Anderson said. “I had a feeling he was going to have another good game. He didn’t have a good game against Kentucky but he did today and boy it was needed.”
Often players coming home try too hard, but with Jones coming home relaxed him coming off that bad Kentucky game in Fayetteville.
“He had a tough game against Kentucky and I thought he was pressing a little bit trying too hard,” Anderson said. “Today it seemed the game slowed down for him a little bit. What a great homecoming it was for him.”
Jones said he took to heart his coaches’ advice to slow down even as coming home speeds up the adrenaline.
“I just couldn’t wait to get down here,” Jones said of coming back to Alabama. “It wasn’t like revenge or anything, I just wanted to come down here and show them what I could do. Being from Alabama I wanted to show them what they missed out on but I am glad to be a Razorback.”
And glad he took some Razorbacks advice.
“They were telling me just slow down and play my own game that I was playing too fast and trying to do too much,” Jones said. “So I just came in and played my game. My teammates were finding me. They set out to find me and give me open looks so I was just playing my game. I had a pretty good shoot-around so I thought this might be the game I might break out and I did.”
Anderson likely will need to issue another bench warrant with the SEC leading Auburn Tigers, 12-4 in the SEC and 24-5 overall, and the Razorbacks, 20-9 overall, and in a 4-team 9-7 tie for third, clashing in Arkansas’ home finale Tuesday night at Walton.