STARKVILLE, Miss. — Head men’s basketball coach Ben Howland met with the media Tuesday to preview Wednesday’s game against Arkansas at Humphrey Coliseum.
He says the biggest thing that stands out about this year’s Arkansas team is the defense.
“They are in the top 10 in effective field goal percentage defense,” Howland said. “They’re in the top 10 in turnovers forced per game and points off of turnovers, so that’s really where they are really making a huge difference in terms of winning and losing,” he said.
He points to their perimeter scoring as being a strong point for the Razorbacks, especially junior guard Mason Jones.
“Jones is leading them in everything. He’s an incredible player and a great story,” Howland said. “You go back and that guy was 275 pounds coming out of high school and nobody wanted him. He started losing weight, went to junior college for a year and ends up getting an offer from Arkansas. And it’s a great basketball family. His brother is a big-time player at Duke, his sister’s a big-time player. He’s really, really a great story and he does everything,” he said.
Jones is averaging a team-high 18.2 points per game on 84-of 196 (42.9%) shooting.
Another player to keep an eye on is sophomore guard Isaiah Joe.
“Isaiah Joe is just incredible in terms of his ability to shoot the three and shoot it with quickness.” Howland said. “He takes 11 threes per game, he’s second in the country 3-pointers made. He is really, really a special player,” he said.
Graduate transfer Jimmy Whitt Jr. is also capable of playing the point guard position, which makes it a difficult matchup for the Bulldogs. Howland says Arkansas’ ability to play a lot of different guys at the point guard position is a matchup nightmare for the Bulldogs.
“He’s really your power forward playing the point, so it’s a matchup nightmare,” Howland said. “There is a different guy pushing it every time on made and missed shots. They’re really good in transition and that’s where their offense starts, so they’re an impressive team,” he said.
Looking at the past couple games where the Bulldogs have won a pair of games by 25-plus points, Howland is pleased with the defensive effort of the team.
“There’s no question our defense is playing the best it’s played all year,” Howland said. The last two games we’ve done a better job offensively. They work hand in hand. The offense feeds the defense, the defense feeds the offense. You’ve got to have good balance at both ends and be effective at both ends, and we’ve done a good job of that the last couple games.
Wednesday’s tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and will be televised by SEC Network.