Nate Allen: Thompson unsung hero of Razorback upset

FAYETTEVILLE — Manny Watkins’ miracle beat the shot clock shot, Dusty Hannahs’ niner-consecutive points surge among his 20-points, Jaylen Barford’s team-leading 23 points and Daryl Macon’s six of six free throws among his 13 points are unforgettable aspects of Arkansas upsetting nationally No. 21 then SEC leader South Carolina Wednesday night in Columbia, S.C.

 

Without Trey Thompson, all that Razorbacks fans might remember is Arkansas losing at the Gamecocks’ Colonial Life Arena.

For without 6-9 Thompson’s 18 minutes either spelling or playing alongside 6-10 big man Kingsley, Arkansas coach Mike Anderson believes the Razorbacks don’t beat South Carolina, 83-76.

For his 18 minutes, the bulky junior from Madison via Forrest City delivered three points and three rebounds and three pivotal assists and a “humongous” two steals, Anderson said.

“There were so many plays in this game but the two steals that Trey had in the second half, they were humongous for our basketball team,” Anderson said on postgame radio in Columbia.

At Walton Arena Thursday for his press conference before the Razorbacks commenced practicing for Saturday’s 5 p.m. SEC game against Ole Miss here, Anderson expounded on Thompson’s value against South Carolina and his role Saturday helping Kingsley against superb Ole Miss big man Sebastian Saiz.

“I thought Trey was big,” Anderson said Thursday. “I thought his two steals, one that he stole and got Barford a layup and one I think he got within the last minute and a half, the deflections he came up with I thought were big. His presence in there with Moses and guarding those guys inside I thought was huge. Sometimes you have that big body it makes a big, big difference. Trey can anticipate and if you notice the offense flows when he’s out there. He doesn’t clog it up. And he’s a great passer. He’s a tremendous screener. His basketball IQ, I think of anybody on our team, is probably the best. You’re seeing him in those moments out there making plays and those plays may not be with the basketball.”

Or rescuing the basketball from getting turned over.

“The one he saved, I think he got a pass from Barford and saved it and had the presence to hit it to Dusty and of course Dusty, when he catches it, you know what he’s going to do” Anderson said. “The first thing he’s thinking about is shooting it and he did shoot it and made it. Just to have that presence to tap the ball out there, it ended up being an assist. Those things are intangibles. With Trey, that’s what he gives you.”

This time Thompson got to give without limits, committing but one foul instead of his customary three as the Hogs played more zone than man to man defense.

Other than “sometimes he passes too much,” and turns down his own shot which Anderson said is a better shot than Thompson realizes, Anderson says he never frets where Thompson positions himself.

“When I see him out there with the ball on offense out on the perimeter, I don’t worry about it,” Anderson said. “I know he’s going to make something good happen most of the time. He’s throwing backdoor passes and sometimes that gets contagious because we saw Moses do that last night. South Carolina plays those lanes really hard and you saw Barford get a pass from him, Trey one time and then Moses as well. Trey also is a big-time screener and rebounds.”

For the Razorbacks, 19-7 overall and 8-5 in the SEC, the best way to keep accelerating their NCAA Tournament hopes Saturday is Kingsley and Thompson neutralizing Saiz, 15.2 points and 11.2 rebounds, on the boards.

Then, Anderson asserts, it’s up to Arkansas’ guards picking up the slack which Barford, Watkins, Hannahs and Beard did at South Carolina with their collective 16 rebounds.

 

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