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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Arkansas' Young looks to rebound against Kentucky

  • Mike Anderson won't say whether he thinks Arkansas has a chance of making the NCAA tournament.
    The Razorbacks coach won't address the possibility of an NIT bid, either, preferring to stay in the here and now.
    What Anderson will talk about these days — following back-to-back losses that have Arkansas' postseason hopes fading — are the struggles of his leading scorer, BJ Young.
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  • Mike Anderson won't say whether he thinks Arkansas has a chance of making the NCAA tournament. The Razorbacks coach won't address the possibility of an NIT bid, either, preferring to stay in the here and now. What Anderson will talk about these days — following back-to-back losses that have Arkansas' postseason hopes fading — are the struggles of his leading scorer, BJ Young. Young, who considered entering the NBA draft last year after his freshman season, has struggled to find his shot this season for the Razorbacks (17-11, 8-7 Southeastern Conference). What was just a slight drop off, however, has turned into a full-out slump for the talented sophomore over the last two games — a forgettable stretch during which Young is 2 of 19 from the field. That includes an 0-for-8 performance in a loss at Florida and several key late turnovers in Wednesday night's loss at LSU. "A lot of times, BJ puts a lot more pressure on himself than he needs to," Anderson said. "That's part of it. And, as a coach, you try to take away those pressures and just let him go out and be a kid. "... So, hopefully, he gets back to being BJ, the happy go-lucky kid." Young is still averaging 15.3 points per game, but his struggles couldn't have come at a worse time for the Razorbacks, who were considered in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid before their latest setbacks. The school hasn't reached the tournament since 2008, though it hopes to make a renewed case when it hosts Kentucky (20-8, 11-4) on Saturday. It's a game in which Anderson knows he'll need Young's best if Arkansas expects to build on a 16-1 home record this season — and give those postseason hopes some new life. "I keep saying we're in the hunt for something," Anderson said. "I don't know what it is, but that's something." The road to the postseason is far from an easy one for the Razorbacks, beginning against the surging Wildcats. Kentucky has won three games in a row since losing shot-blocking freshman Nerlens Noel for the season with a knee injury, including Wednesday night's 85-55 win over Mississippi State. Five players scored in double figures for the defending national champion in the win, a theme coach John Calipari has stressed since an 88-58 loss to Tennessee in the first game following Noel's injury. "The last few games and how we've been playing, I think we kind of made a breakthrough and everybody's starting to click with each other," Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow said. While Kentucky appears well on its way to finding itself and securing an NCAA tournament bid, Arkansas is anything but secure with its postseason destination. The Razorbacks could go a long way to helping themselves with a win over the Wildcats, as well as with wins in their final two regular season games at Missouri and at home against Texas A&M. For any of that to happen, however, the Razorbacks must find a way to help Young regain his touch. Young blistered SEC nets last season to the tune of a 50.4 percent field goal percentage, including 44 percent on 3-pointers. This season, however, he's only connecting on 44 percent of his shots and 22 percent on 3-pointers — including 18.9 percent in SEC play. "I think I'll be fine," Young said after the Florida loss. "I just want to get involved earlier, try to get some stops early on defense and get some transition buckets to get me going. "... It's just something that happens every now and again." Anderson said Young was "hesitant" to shooting 3-pointers in the LSU loss, during which the sophomore was 0 of 4 from behind the arch. He's now 0 for 10 on 3-pointers in his last three games, and Anderson said he's noticed that Young's shot this season has been "flatter" than in the past. Prior to the struggles of the last two games, Young had two of his best finishes for the Razorbacks — connecting on late three-point plays in both games to help Arkansas to wins over Missouri and Georgia. One key play, Anderson said, is all Young needs to boost his confidence. The coach also said Young has to focus on the here and now and not the possibility of leaving school early for the professional ranks after this season. "You've got to keep him grounded and stay in the now," Anderson said. "I think you've got to stay in the now, right now. "You can't worry about the future because it may not even come." ___ AP Sports Writer Gary Graves in Lexington, Ky., contributed to this report.
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