Took a little trip down a FG% "rabbit hole"

I saw a comment someone made (elsewhere) about a game we played against Texas Tech in Lubbock back in the old SWC days. That reminded me of the time we went there and set a school (and SWC too, I believe) record for best FG% in a single game…and we still had to get a last second shot by Sidney to bail us out with a 1 point win. We shot 79.4% in that game (27 of 34 FG)…WOW!

Looking at our Basketball Records, I ran into a couple of things I had not known.

Of course, I do remember the heartbreaking stunner in the first round of the 1977 NCAA Basketball Tournament when we blew a double digit halftime lead and lost to Wake Forest. What I had forgotten is that we shot 68% from the field (34 of 50), yet still lost. In looking at the box score, it was easy to see/remember what had gone wrong. We turned the ball over a whopping 23 times, to 12 for Wake. And they made 24 FT’s to our 12. IIRC, they pressed us and with our limited depth, we wore down in the second half and started turning the ball over and making “reach” fouls.

Something else jumped out at me. Of Arkansas’ top 10 team FG % teams (for the entire year), ALL 10 of them were Eddie Sutton teams…ALL of them. We actually led the NATION in team FG% in both 1977 and 1978. That’s what happens when you get a special group of players and a HOF coach who preaches “ONLY shoot good shots” like Sutton did.

It’s a shame that I have to say this…but if I don’t, someone will chime in and complain. This is NOT a shot at Nolan. I’m a huge Nolan fan; my history with him goes back further than anyone here (I knew who he was when he played college basketball at Texas Western, and my HS played against his El Paso Bowie HS teams).

I knew Eddie’s teams were known for getting the good shot, but had no idea he had all 10 of the top % teams in our history. Of course, that was in the pre-three point shot era. Would be interesting to see how Eddie would approach shot selection in the current metrics-driven era. IMO, Muss is a lot like Eddie in his approach to the game…as it exists in the modern era.

My recollection of that game is that Wake put on a desperation press after we took the big halftime lead, and we didn’t handle it well at all, particularly Jimmy Counce (the future surgeon coughed it up 10 times himself). Then once Wake got the lead, they spread it out (no shot clock), forced us to foul and hit their FTs.

Note, too, that many scores in the Sutton era were in the 30s and 40s. Eddie seemed risk-averse with the offense. He was a defensive guru. The 3-point shot opened up offenses. The introduction of a shot clock ended the era of stellar FG%.

The NCAA record for team field goal percentage was set by the 1980 Misery team which shot 57% for the year. They had Steve Stipanovich at center but Stipo had only the fourth best shooting percentage among the regulars at 59%; three players shot over 60%. Current ESPN analyst Jon Sundvold was a freshman on that team, the sixth man based on total minutes, but shot only 45%. Won the Big Eight regular season, finished 25-6 and reached the Sweet 16 where they lost to LSU.

I don’t remember much about their style of play other than going inside to Stipo, but I do remember the school whose FG% record they broke, Maryland. Lefty Driesell went with a three-guard lineup when that was a rarity and Terps games resembled a layup drill.

I like to recall the following season.

As a youngster, I spent many years in Albuquerque, so our win there in 1978 against #2 UCLA was my favorite Hog BB game of all time.

Expectations changed pretty quickly after that game.

They didn’t play defense then like they do now. Watch an old Arkansas game from the 70s and 80s and no one is within 5 feet of their man. Advanced scouting, athletes today and the fact of the deeper range of today puts more of a premium on closer defense.

Excellent point; the idea was to prevent dribble penetration. If you wanted to try a 22-footer that you might only shoot 38% on instead of a shot in the lane that was 65%, go right ahead. Of course now, that 22-footer is effectively a 57% shot and you’d better challenge it.

As I recall, we were up 20 at the half, which seemed insurmountable at the time.

Actually, we were 13 points ahead at the break. Now, we may or may not have been 20 points up at some point in the first half - I can’t remember that. But I do know the halftime score was 46 to 33.

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