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A youngster’s questions and answers with Arkansas’ Woodhall

Editor’s Note: Eleven-year-old J.D. Olson, the son of HitThatLine.com contributor Nate Olson, sat down with Arkansas track star and double amputee, Hunter Woodhall, as the 2020 indoor season was winding down and the outdoor season was set to begin before the pandemic halted SEC spring sports. J.D. just finished fifth grade at Collegeville Elementary School in Bryant.


By J.D. Olson
Special to HitThatLine.com

Hunter Woodhall’s track accomplishments would be impressive if he had two good legs. He doesn’t. A condition caused Woodhall’s parents to make the decision to amputate his legs when he was 11 months old.

Even though he faced much adversity growing up, he eventually found track and his success helped him to become more accepted by his classmates.

Woodhall, who is from Utah, began to excel on the track in high school. He was ranked No. 20 in the nation in the 400 meters with a top time of 47.32 seconds. He won a bronze medal in the 400 meters and a silver medal in the 200 meters at the 2016 Summer Paralympics.

Syracuse, Utah, mayor Terry Palmer declared Sept. 15, “Hunter Woodhall Day,” and he was named 2016 Male High School Track Athlete of the Year.

He became the first double amputee to earn a Division I scholarship when he signed with the University of Arkansas. He ran six indoor meets as a freshman and recorded a personal best 1:58.04 in the 800-meters.

He ran a best time of 47.42 in the 400-meters and was a bronze medalist in the 4×400-meter relay at the SEC Outdoor Championships.

He was named to the First-Team All-American Team at the NCAA Outdoor Championships after his 4×400-meter relay team finished sixth.

As a sophomore, Woodhall was an All-American during the indoor and outdoor seasons and ran a lifetime best 46.22 in the 400 meters at the SEC Outdoor Championships. He ran a personal best 1:50.68 in the 800 meters during the indoor season.

Woodhall hoped his junior season would be his best yet.

His 4×400 meter relay team took second as the SEC Indoor Championships, and he qualified for the indoor nationals in the 4×400 meters and distance medley relay. The 4×400 team won the event at the Arkansas Invitational and ran the fifth-fastest time in school history and was ranked as the fastest 4×400 team in the nation in February.

The indoor season ended suddenly before the NCAA Indoor Championships, and the outdoor season was canceled before it began due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I learned about Woodhall’s story while following him on the social media app Instagram. He posts many inspirational videos on the app. When someone asked about why he doesn’t have any legs, he told his story, which had millions of likes and views.

That story caused Ellen DeGeneres to invite him on her daytime talk show. Ellen then surprised Woodhall with a $20,000 check to use for his expenses to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, which have now been postponed.

I had a chance to sit down with Woodhall during the indoor season. We talked about his childhood, signing with the Hogs, going on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and more.

Q: Were you bullied growing up because of your legs?

A: Yeah, I went through a lot of bullying. I was home schooled until I was in the fifth grade. My parents started a business, and they didn’t have time to home school me anymore, and I went to public school. I went through a lot of bullying in fifth grade and into sixth grade as well. It wasn’t until I got to junior high where I found some friends who really treated me like I should have been. I had some friends who really cared about me.

Q: Did you play any other sports growing up?

A: I played all kinds of sports. Both of my brothers played sports, and I just wanted to follow in their footsteps. I started with T-ball, and then soccer and I played basketball and wrestled. I obviously ran track and played football. Basically, anything I could try out I did. I wanted to do what my brothers were doing.

Q: Was there a time you wanted to quit or doubted yourself?

A: Absolutely. There’s been so many times in my life, especially in sports, where things have gotten really hard, and I’ve questioned if it’s the right thing to be doing or not. When you get past those points and fight through that and come out the other side, you come out a better person and better athlete. I think it’s our hard times and our failures, which really define who we are.

Q: How did you first get into track? Was it a hobby at first, or was it something you were really focused on from the beginning?

A: That’s a good question. I started running 5Ks and things with my family – fun runs over the holidays and things like that. Like I said, I went through a lot of bullying, and when I got to junior high, the few friends I did have, were on the track team. So, I started running track because I felt comfortable on the team and felt comfortable being around my friends. That’s actually what got me running.

Q: Was there anyone who impacted your life like a coach or family member?

A: My family, obviously, had a huge impact on where I am today and everything I have been through but also, specifically my dad was always a really big influence in my life. There’s a number of different people in my life who showed they believed in me. A lot of times, they believed in me more than I believed in myself probably. A big reason I am where I am today is because of the people I have had in my life.

Q: What has been your main motivation?

A: There have been a lot of people behind me, but one of the biggest motivators for me is I have just been scared to let those people down. Not just one specific person but everyone who has taken the time to say they believed in me or defend me or something like that. The moment I give up or stop chasing my dreams is when I let them down. To know they believe in me and want me to succeed – I have to do whatever I can to prove them right.

Q: What was your initial reaction when you found out you had an offer from Arkansas?

A: Excited I would say. My recruiting process was extremely difficult. I had really hard time getting colleges to recruit me just because I was missing my legs. It had always been a dream of mine to compete in a conference such as the SEC. Just to be able to have that moment and share it, not only with my family, but also the people that have supported me to this point. That was a big deal in my life and real emotional.

Q: What was one of the most important tools you used to become an athlete?

A: I would say discipline is the biggest one. Discipline is such an overarching topic, and it can be applied to so many parts of your life. It always flows over to different parts. For example, when you are disciplined in the classroom, you are probably going to be even more disciplined when it comes to your sport or the chores you are doing or all of those things. When you can be disciplined in all aspects of your life, they all coincide. It’s hard to put a little bit of effort into one thing and think you are going to be all in and 110 percent in another thing.

Q: When you first came to Arkansas what were your thoughts when you struggled a little bit individually?

A: My freshman year was really difficult for me. I wasn’t used to the training, and I wasn’t used to how fast everyone was running in the NCAA, so it was really hard for me to adjust. It was one of those times I talked about earlier when you go through a hard time or hardship, and you have to reevaluate and keep pushing on. It was a lesson for me that I can’t take anything for granted, and if you want to compete at the highest level,  or you want to be at the highest level, in anything you are doing it is going to take some work.

Q: What was it like being on The Ellen show and knowing hundreds of thousands of people were watching?

A: It was so cool. I think it was amazing to be around someone who has such a positive outlook on life and puts so much love back into the world. Just to be able to use my story and what I have been through to impact somebody else’s life, that’s what it is all about. That’s very special.

PHOTO BY NATE OLSON | HITTHATLINE.COM

Q: Have people ever said anything about your artificial legs being an advantage in your running?

A: Yeah, I get that a lot, and usually … It happens the faster I run the more people are complaining. That is just one of those things where when things start happening in the public eye and people start watching, there’s always going to be people saying negative things. I think in my mind, we are not going to focus on the people that are being negative because that is going to take away from the people who are supporting us – right? It makes more sense to put all of our effort and attention into people that are supporting us and saying kind things.

Q: What is a piece of advice you want to give to other kids and athletes who are dealing with disabilities?

A: I think not even for disabilities, but everyone – it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, success is something you decide to do. If you have a dream, there is nothing that separates you from the person sitting next to you in class or the person on TV. We are all humans, right? The thing that makes you successful is how much do you want it, and how much do you want to work? And are you going to make sacrifices for that? So, just chase your dreams regardless of who you are and where you are.

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Listen live to Musselman’s teleconference as Robinson completes class

ESPN Arkansas will have the complete teleconference with Eric Musselman after K.K. Robinson completed Arkansas’ men’s basketball signing class by inking his paperwork Monday.

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Pittman’s handling of crisis may give some clues if you look for them

Barry Odom didn’t wait for a question on Friday’s teleconference and opened it with a monologue that gives some clues to what we’ve said about Sam Pittman taking control of football at Arkansas.

“We’ve gotten a lot better as an organization in the last month,” Odom said. “It’s because of his leadership and the things he’s put in place for us to carry out and do.”

It’s becoming clear Pittman and Odom are forming a pretty tight bond. They even take daily walks together as a head coach with a lot of time spent on various coaching staffs listens to a guy who coached a few years in the SEC.

The initial observation from a distance (and that’s all we have to go on at this point) is Pittman understands he was given a pair of eyes plus two ears with just one mouth and acts in accordance with the proportion.

That’s what most successful leaders do.

“Coach Pittman has been unbelievable as a leader, providing us with the details on a day-to-day basis of what we want to get done and have a plan to go out and execute it,” offensive coordinator Kendal Briles said later in the teleconference.

At least it appears he has a plan that his staff understands. For about the last seven years everybody appeared to be making things up, almost on a weekly basis the last couple of seasons.

“We kind of had an anticipation that it may go to all students being away,” Pittman said on The Paul Finebaum Show on the SEC Network on Friday. “We did a lot of teach tapes and a lot of things of that nature, getting ready video-wise to be gone. It’s been fairly smooth, I think, over the last three weeks. We’ve got a lot completed and a lot done.”

Can you imagine how this shutdown would have affected the previous two staffs? Too much over the last seven seasons looked like it was being made up as they went along.

That’s how you end up with a 33-54 record over that time span and 4-20 the last two seasons.

Pittman at least has his coordinators talking about how has handled something nobody could predict. He may have had an idea some kind of disruption was coming.

“Really didn’t give him a handbook on how to handle this, but he has provided the structure, organization and the things that he’s put in place for us to be able to do,” Odom said Friday.

One of Pittman’s strengths is his one-on-one ability with players. We’ve heard that from a lot of people for several years.

“The biggest thing as a coach is you like to look people in the eye,” he told Finebaum. “We’ve tried to get as much interaction as we possibly can so we can find out if our kids are understanding what we’re trying to teach to them … and, for that matter, if our coaches are understanding the points I’m trying to get across.”

Apparently they get it. The respect for Pittman comes across as real.

“He’s got a staff that respects him,” Briles said.

We haven’t heard that a lot in awhile. It doesn’t automatically equate to wins, which is what everything ultimately is the final measuring stick.

But it does indicate the ship is pointed in the right direction.

Maybe more solidly than we’ve seen in awhile.

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Listen to replay of Razorbacks’ 2015 win over LSU in Baton Rouge at 2 p.m.

Arkansas running back Alex Collins ran for 148 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns in a surprising 31-14 win over No. 9 LSU in Baton Rouge and you can listen to it at 2 p.m. at HitThatLine.com or ESPN Arkansas. CLICK HERE 

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Razorbacks face Grand Canyon in midweek matchup in Baum-Walker Stadium

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas wraps up its six-game home stand with a double midweek set against Grand Canyon on Tuesday and Wednesday at Baum-Walker Stadium.

The game will be available with Phil Elson and Bubba Carpenter on the ESPN SEC Network+ online and can also be heard on ESPN Arkansas 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home.

You can also listen to the game online at HitThatLine.com by CLICKING HERE.

Game times:

Tuesday (March 10) – 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday (March 11) – 3 p.m.

The Razorbacks and Antelopes have only met twice, squaring off in a doubleheader on April 5, 2017, as the Hogs took both games by scores of 11-2 and 6-1.

Arkansas put together a 2-2 week at home, winning their weekend series against South Alabama on March 6-8. After dropping a tough 8-7 decision to Illinois State on Tuesday, the Hogs fell in the series opener to the Jaguars, 13-6.

Arkansas rebounded for a 15-2 victory in the Saturday contest, followed by a 5-3 win in Sunday’s finale to take the series.

With the series on the line in the bottom of the ninth, the Hogs got their first walk-off home run since 2013 thanks to a two-run shot from Heston Kjerstad. Exactly seven years to the day, Kjerstad uncorked a 2-2 pitch over the right field wall to clinch the series for the Razorbacks.

It was Kjerstad’s sixth home run of the year and the 19th of the year for the Razorbacks.

The last walk-off home run by a Razorback came from Joe Serrano against San Diego State on March 8, 2013.

Freshman RHP Will McEntire to start Tuesday’s game against the Antelopes. McEntire will be making his first start of the season and second appearance on the mound.

He tossed two innings against South Alabama on Saturday, throwing a pair of shutout innings, retiring all six batters he faced, striking out four. He will be the second freshman to start a game for the Hogs this season.

Pitching rotation

Tuesday – RHP Will McEntire vs. LHP Cal Lambert
Wednesday – TBA vs. TBA

Outfielder Christian Franklin has been one of the most consistent players in the lineup for the Razorbacks this season, entering the new with a team-best .426 batting average, totaling 23 hits this season.

Franklin led the team in hitting last week, recording 10 hits over four games with three RBIs and seven runs scored for a .588/.882/.650 line at the plate.

He recorded multi-hit performances in all four games, including three-hit games against Illinois State (3/3) and in the finale against the Jaguars (3/8). Franklin has a hit in all but one game and has scored a run in all but two.

Getting overshadowed a little bit was some strong pitching down the stretch against the Jaguars on Sunday to help put the Razorbacks in position to take the series.

Sophomore RHP Elijah Trest was first out of the bullpen and pitched three shutout frames from the fourth-through-sixth. He worked out of a pair of jams with two baserunners on in the fourth and sixth innings, with a quick six-pitch fifth sandwiched between the two.

Zebulon Vermillion, another right-hander, carried the momentum through the final three innings, allowing just one base hit to his first batter faced, retiring the next nine consecutive with six strikeouts and three groundouts.

The duo combined for 10 K’s to stifle the Jags in Sunday’s finale.

After four weeks of action, Arkansas sits in the top 15 in all but one poll. The Hogs are ranked as high as 14th this week by D1 Baseball and Baseball America.

2020 week 5 rankings
D1 Baseball – No. 14
Baseball America – No. 14
USA Today Coaches – No. 15
Perfect Game – No. 15
Collegiate Baseball – No. 15
NCBWA – No. 16

After the series against Grand Canyon, the Razorbacks will open conference play at No. 17 Mississippi State this weekend in Starkville.

Information from Razorback Sports Communications is included in this story.

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Arkansas-LSU matchup on ESPN Arkansas in final home game of season

Who: Arkansas Razorbacks (18-11, 6-10 SEC) vs LSU Tigers (20-9, 11-5 SEC)
What: Razorbacks play their final home game. Seniors to be honored after the game.
When: Wednesday, March 4, 6 p.m.
Where: Bud Walton Arena / Nolan Richardson Court
• TV: SEC Network (Roy Philpott and Mark Wise). WATCH ONLINE
Radio: ESPN Arkansas 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home with Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman on the call.
• Online: Listen online at HitThatLine.com

Honoring Razorback seniors

• Immediately after the Arkansas-LSU game, the Department of Athletics will honor senior basketball players Jimmy Whitt Jr., Adrio Bailey, Jeantal Cylla and Jamario Bell.

• Also set to be recognized is manager Greg Croll and four-year student athletic trainer Caleb Maddock.

• Whitt, Cylla and Bell all have their degrees and Bailey is on track to receive his.

Against LSU

• This will be the 69th meeting between Arkansas and LSU. This is the 59th meeting since the Razorbacks joined the SEC for the 1991-92 season, making LSU its most common opponent over the span.

• LSU has won three of the last four in the series. The Razorbacks’ lone win being a 90-89 upset of then-No. 17 Tigers in Baton Rouge last year.

Last game: Baton Rouge • Jan. 8, 2020

• In a game that featured 19 lead changes – including eight inside the final five minutes – LSU’s old-fashion 3-point play with eight seconds left proved to be the difference in a 79-77 victory over Arkansas at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

• Arkansas ended a 4:12 scoring drought when Jimmy Whitt Jr., hit a jumper in the lane with 38 seconds left to give Arkansas a 74-73 lead. LSU answered with an old-fashion 3-point play by Trendon Watford to go up two, 76-74, with 32 ticks left. Isaiah Joe came right back with an “and-one” of his own for a one-point Razorback lead with 21 seconds remaining.

• Adrio Bailey blocked the first Tigers shot attempt to regain the lead with 12 seconds left. However, the ball went out of bounds and LSU retained possession. LSU then got the ball to Watford, who converted the third old-fashion three-point play in three possessions for a two-point advantage.

• Arkansas’ final shot attempt was blocked to give LSU to win.

• LSU out-rebounded Arkansas 53-24. LSU had 23 offensive rebounds and had 26 second-chance points compared to Arkansas’ three offensive rebounds and zero second-chance points.

• Watford finished with 21 points and eight rebounds to lead the Tigers. Skylar Mays added 19 points while Darius Days had a double-double (16 points and 16 rebounds).

• Arkansas was led by Mason Jones (24 points) and Whitt (22).

Joe impressive since returning6

• Isaiah Joe returned to the Razorback lineup versus Missouri after missing five games due to knee surgery. The Razorbacks were 0-5 with Joe out of the lineup including two overtime losses (vs Auburn and at Missouri) and a loss at the buzzer versus Mississippi State.

• In his three games back is averaging 23.0 ppg || 11-of-28 (39.3%) from 3PT || 22-of-22 from FT || 5 steals || drawn five charges.

Against Missouri: Joe finished with a game-high 21 points in his return (5-of-10 from 3PT) with three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one charge taken.

Against Tennessee: Joe followed that with a 22-point performance in a win over Tennessee. He was 12-of-12 from the free throw line, took two charges and had two steals.

At Georgia: Joe tied for game-high honors with 26 points, making four triples and going 6-of-6 at the free throw line. He added two steals and took a charge. With Arkansas down 15, Joe scored nine points in an 11-4 run to make it an eight-point game at the break.

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Arkansas looks to break losing streak in road matchup against Florida

Who: Arkansas Razorbacks (16-9. 4-8 SEC) at Florida Gators (16-9, 8-4 SEC)
What: Razorbacks are in Gainesville for the 16th time.
When: Tuesday, Feb. 18, 6 p.m.
Where: Gainesville, Fla., Exactech Arena / Stephen C. O’Connell Center (10,151)
• TV: ESPNU (Roy Philipott and Dane Bradshaw). CLICK HERE to Watch ESPN Online
Radio: ESPN Arkansas 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home with Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman. Pregame starts at 5:30 p.m.
• Listen online at HitThatLine.com. CLICK HERE

Against Florida

• This will be the 38th meeting between Arkansas and Florida, all coming since Arkansas joined the SEC in 1991-92.

• The Gators own a 25-12 advantage in the series, including a 13-2 mark in Gainesville.

• Florida has won 10 of the last 11 meetings. The Gators have won 13 straight in Gainesville with Arkansas’ last win in the Sunshine State coming on Feb. 2, 1995 (94-85).

Last year against the Gators

Jan. 9 in Fayetteville: Mason Jones scored 30 points and played a key role in a 15-2 run late in the game to get the Razorbacks to within two (53-51) with 1:02 left, but the Florida Gators made four free throws inside the final 12 seconds to get a 57-51 victory.

• Arkansas was down 15 (51-36) with 6:11 left before Jones scored 11 points (six free throws, a jumper and a 3-pointer) to trim the Razorbacks’ deficit to two, 53-51. Jones capped the 15-2 run with two free throws with 1:02 left.

• On the ensuing possession, Arkansas’ defense got a stop as Daniel Gafford pulled down his 12th rebound of the contest. The Razorbacks then had two chances to tie the game, but Jones’ jumper missed with 24 seconds left and Adrio Bailey’s put-back rimmed out.

• Arkansas was forced to foul and Kevaughn Allen sank two free throws with 12 seconds left to give the Gators a four-point lead. Arkansas came up empty again before Allen made two more from the charity stripe to secure the six-point win (57-51).

• Allen finished with 18 points, including 11-of-12 at the free throw line. Overall, Florida was 15-of-19 while Arkansas was 15-of-26.

FREE MASON: Jones Leads NCAA Free Throws

• Arkansas junior Mason Jones made 18-of-21 from the free throw line Saturday versus Mississippi State, scoring 38 points.

• Jones now leads the NCAA in both free throws made (172) and free throw attempts (208).

• The 18 makes are an Arkansas single-game record in an SEC game while ranking third (tied) overall. The 21 attempts are the second-most by a Razorback in an SEC game behind Corliss Williamson’s 22 in 1995 and ties for fifth-most overall.

• Jones has made more free throws (172) than field goals (139) but ranks in the SEC top 10 in both (first for free throws made and seventh for field goals made)

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Razorbacks looking to get back on track with road trip to face Vols

Who: Arkansas Razorbacks (16-7. 4-6 SEC) at Tennessee (13-10, 5-5 SEC)
What: Razorbacks have won 6 of the last 8 versus the Vols
When: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 6 p.m.
Where: Knoxville, Tenn. – Thompson-Boling Arena
• TV: SEC Network (Kevin Fitzgerald and Joe Kleine) CLICK HERE to watch online
Radio: ESPN Arkansas 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home (Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman)
Online: You can here the game online at HitThatLine.com CLICK HERE

Against Tennessee

• This will be the 43rd meeting between Arkansas and Tennessee with all but four coming since the Razorbacks joined the SEC for the 1991-92 season.

• Tennessee has won two straight to take a 21-20 advantage in the series. The Volunteers also lead 12-4 in games played in Knoxville and hold a 19-16 advantage since Arkansas joined the SEC.

Last year at Tennessee:

• The third-ranked Tennessee Volunteers jumped out to a 20-6 lead and never looked back in a 106-87 victory over Arkansas.

• Despite the 19-point victory, the stats for both teams were fairly even across the board with the key difference coming from the free throw line as Tennessee was 35-of-39, compared to 13-of-22 for the Razorbacks.

• The Vols would stake a 55-34 lead at halftime while shooting 50 percent from the field and making 20-of-23 at the charity stripe. The Razorbacks only made three fewer field goals than Tennessee (12-to-15) in the first half but were just 6-of-11 at the free throw line.

• In the second half, Arkansas did not back down. The Razorbacks outscored the Vols, shot 57 percent from the field and out-rebounded Tennessee (16-13).

• Grant Williams led the free throw barrage for Tennessee, going a perfect 14-of-14 and scoring 18 points. Lamonte Turner led Tennessee overall with 21 points off the bench while Jordan Bowden added 19 points off the bench. Admiral Scofield contributed 17 points — all in the second half — while Kyle Alexander had 12.

• Isaiah Joe led the Razorbacks with 23 points, making 7-of-13 from 3-point range. Mason Jones finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Reggie Chaney (11) and Daniel Gafford (10) each finished in double figures as well.

Working overtime; close losses

• Arkansas has played back-to-back overtime games for the first time since playing three straight in January 2014 — Florida (L), Kentucky (W) and at Georgia (L).

• This is the sixth time Arkansas has played four overtime games in a season (1970-71, 1984-85, 1994-95, 2010-11, 2013-14). The record is five in 1985-86 and 2015-16.

• Arkansas has three losses in overtime and has lost its seven games by a combined 32 points — 4.5 avg.

• Arkansas is one of nine teams in the NCAA that has yet to lose a game by double digits. San Diego State (0 losses), Baylor (1 loss by 3 pts), Dayton (2 losses by 8 pts; 4.0 avg), Duke (3 losses by 15 pts; 5.0 avg), Northern Iowa (3 losses by 11 pts 3.7 avg), Kentucky (5 losses by 24 pts; 4.8 avg), Yale (5 losses by 18 pts; 3.6 avg), Wright State (5 losses by 14 pts; 2.8 avg) and Arkansas (7 losses by 32 pts; 4.5 avg).

Hogs lead NCAA defending 3; how Hogs off-set rebounding difference

• The Razorbacks have held opponents to shooting 29 percent or worse from 3-point range 17 times. Most recently, Arkansas held Texas A&M to 28.6, LSU to 26.7%, Ole Miss to 23.1%, Vandy to 25%, the SEC’s 3-pt percentage leader Alabama to 25.8%, Auburn to 25.8% and Missouri to 18.3%. Arkansas’ 24.6% 3-point defense ranks 1st NCAA / 1st SEC

• Arkansas has only committed 101 turnovers in SEC games (or 10.1/gm — fewest in SEC play) while forcing 155 (or 15.5 – most in SEC play). Arkansas has committed single-digit turnovers six times this year (8 vs South Dakota, 8 vs Tulsa, 9 versus Texas A&M, 7 at LSU, 7 vs Vandy and 7 at Mississippi State). Arkansas’ +5.2 turnover margin ranks 6th NCAA / 1st SEC

• Arkansas has SEC-best 81 steals (8.1 avg) in SEC games, including 14 vs Auburn. Arkansas has double-digit steals seven other times this year — 14 vs Rice, 13 vs Texas Southern, 11 vs North Texas, 11 vs Montana, 15 at Georgia Tech, 12 vs Tulsa and 11 at Alabama. Arkansas’ 8.7 steals per game ranks 20th NCAA / 1st SEC; Arkansas’ 201 total steals rank 27th NCAA / 1st SEC

• The Razorbacks have forced at least 15 turnovers 17 times this season, including a season-high 27 in the season opener versus Rice. Arkansas forced Auburn into 18 turnovers; Texas A&M, Alabama and Missouri into 17 turnovers; while Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and South Carolina each had 16. TCU had 19. The 17.13 turnovers forced ranks 16th NCAA / 1st SEC.

• Arkansas only committed 10 turnovers at Alabama as well as versus Auburn. Overall the Hogs have committed 10 or less turnovers 11 times this season. The 12.0 turnovers committed ranks 59th-fewest in the NCAA / 2nd SEC; The 275 turnovers committed ranks 49th-fewest NCAA / 2nd SEC.

Taking care of the ball in SEC play

• Since SEC play began, Arkansas has valued the ball better than the non-conference season. In league play, the Hogs have 107 assists, a league-high 81 steals, a league-low 101 turnovers and a league-high 155 turnovers forced.

• In SEC play, four teams have an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.1, including South Carolina, ARKANSAS, LSU and Tennessee.

• In SEC play, Arkansas has a league-low 101 turnovers (10.1/gm) while forcing the most turnovers (15.5/gm).

• In SEC play, Arkansas leads the league in turnover margin (+5.5). The next closest is South Carolina at +1.1.

Information from Razorback Sports Communications is included in this story.

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How to listen to Hogs’ game Saturday afternoon against Missouri

Who: Arkansas Razorbacks (16-6. 4-5 SEC) at Missouri (10-12, 2-7 SEC)
What: Razorbacks set to play first of back-to-back road games
When: Saturday, Feb. 8, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Columbia, Mo. – Mizzou Arena
• TV: SEC Network (Richard Cross and Barry Booker) CLICK HERE to watch online
Radio: ESPN Arkansas 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home (Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman)
• Listen online at HitThatLine.com CLICK HERE

Against Missouri

• This will be the 52nd meeting between Arkansas and Missouri. The Razorbacks own a 27-24 advantage in the series, including an 8-6 cushion in games since Missouri joined the SEC in 2012-13.

• Arkansas has won seven of the last 10 in the series, although the teams each won three of the last six on their home court.

Last year at Arkansas:

• Isaiah Joe made seven 3-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points while Daniel Gafford recorded his eighth double-double of the season to lead Arkansas to a 72-60 win over Missouri.

• The Razorbacks, down 17-4 to start the game, trailed at halftime but took an early lead in the second half off a Mason Jones 3-pointer. The Razorbacks would not surrender that lead over the final 17:41 of the game. However, the game remained tight until a 10-0 run by the Hogs inside the final five minutes to put the game away.

• Gafford finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds while Jalen Harris added 10 points and six assists with zero turnovers. Chaney finished with six points, six rebounds and four assists.

Last year at Missouri:

• Missouri locked down Arkansas on the final defensive possession and squeaked by the Razorbacks 79-78.

• The Tigers were up three points with 11 seconds remaining when Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford threw down an alley-oop dunk from Jalen Harris. On the ensuing inbound play, Missouri’s Xavier Pinson committed a push-off foul to give Arkansas the ball back and a chance to win with 10 ticks remaining.

• Missouri’s Jeremiah Tilmon did not allow Harris to get a quality shot off as time expired.

• Tilmon led Missouri with 21 points. Senior Jordan Geist contributed 18. Arkansas was led by Gafford (26 pts), Isaiah Joe (17 pts) and Mason Jones (12 pts).

Jones making case for SEC player of the year

• Jones is the only player in the SEC to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.

• Jones is the only player in the SEC to rank among the top 20 in scoring (1st, 20.7 ppg) and rebounding (17th, 6.2 rpg) that also ranks among the SEC top 11 in steals (5th, 1.8) and assists (10th, 3.5).

• Jones is the only player in the SEC to rank among the top 20 in scoring (3rd, 22.0 ppg) and rebounding (17th, 6.3 rpg) that also ranks among the top 10 in steals (4th, 1.9) and assists (5th, 4.4).

• Mason Jones is one of two players in the NCAA to average at least 15.0 ppg – 6.0 rpg – 3.0 assist/gm – 1.5 steal/gm:
1. Jones 20.7 ppg – 6.2 rpg – 3.5 apg – 1.8 spg
2. Desmond Bane (TCU) 16.3 ppg – 6.1 rpg – 3.4 apg – 1.6 spg

• Jones is one of three players in the last 30 years to have multiple 40-point games. Jodie Meeks (UK 3), Jones (ARK 2) and Shaquille O’Neal (LSU 2)

• Mason Jones not only leads the SEC and ranks 15th in the NCAA in scoring, AMONG PLAYERS FROM THE NCAA TOP-6 RPI CONFERENCES, Jones ranks 4th in scoring.

Sills fills void

In the two games Joe has missed, Desi Sills has taken ownership of the “Next Man Up” mantra:

• 20 gms w/ Isaiah — Sills: 9.1 ppg – 66-166 FG (.398) – 17-82 3P TFG (.207) – 30.2 min/gm – 1.1 steals/gm

• 2 gms w/o Isaiah — Sills: 16.0 ppg – 11-18 FG (.611) – 7-9 3P TFG (.778) – 37.0 min/gm – 3.0 steals/gm

• Sills scored 18 vs TCU on 7-8 FG, 3-3 3PT with 2 steals
• Sills scored 14 vs Auburn on 4-10 FG, 4-6 3PT with career-high four steals

• Despite shooting 26.4% from 3-pt for the season, Sills is shooting a team-best 43.5% from deep over the last 7 gms.

Free Mason; nearing school free throw Top 10

Jones ranks second in the NCAA in free throws made with 137 despite some recent struggles at the line.

• Of Jones’ 30 FT misses this year, 18 have come in the last four games including 6-of-13 vs TCU and 10-of-15 vs Auburn.

• NCAA scoring leader Markus Howard (Marquette) also leads the NCAA in FT made with 179.

• Jones ranks 4th in the NCAA in free throws ATT with 167.

• Jones only needs to make 16 more free throws to enter the school’s single-season top 10 (Daryl Macon made 154 in 2018). Sidney Moncrief holds the school record with 212 made in a season.

Master of the midrange

• Jimmy Whitt Jr., did not score versus Auburn but still ranks 2nd in the SEC in field goals made (135) while ranking 4th in the SEC in FG% (.513).

• Whitt ranks 10th in the NCAA among guards in FG% (.513).

• (@HogStats) In the 3-point era, Razorback guards have scored 20-plus points in a game without making a 3-pointer nine times. Whitt has accomplished the feat seven times while Corey Beck and Robert Shepherd each did it once.

Chaney’s efficiency

• Reggie Chaney is shooting an incredible 72.9% from the field for the season and 81.8% in league play. While he does not have enough attempts to qualify for the NCAA/SEC leaders, Chaney would rank second the nation behind of Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike’ (76.3% • 119-of-165).

• Chaney has made 24 of his last 31 shots (77.4%) including a streak of 13 consecutive field goals made to start the span.

• Chaney was 0-of-3 in the first half versus TCU, but was 3-of-3 in the second half, scoring six straight points for the Hogs to push a 3-point lead into a 9-point lead. He was an SEC career-best 4-of-5 at the free throw line at Alabama.

Information from Razorback Sports Communications is included in this story.