While familes across the country gorged on food and football, a few hearty souls in Brooklyn including Joe Johnson joined those camped in front of second helpings and TVs in Arkansas (and maybe even Atlanta) to watch the Razorbacks scrap, hustle and ultimately fail to get over the hump against Georgia Tech.
The Hogs stayed close throughout and led once, briefly, in an 83-73 loss in the NIT Season Tip-off in the Barclays Center. We'll take on the Villanova/Stanford loser Friday, and in the meantime fell to 2-2 overall.
Not much to say here. It turned out like most of us expected; we scrapped and hustled, but in the end couldn't make shots when they counted or close on wide open GT shooters. The Yellow Jackets maintained a 6-8 point lead throughout most of the game though the Hogs did have some mini-runs, one of which gave us the lead, 36-35, late in the first half.
Early foul trouble on Moses Kingsley was a back breaker. He picked up two early fouls that sent him to the bench, and the Hogs needed him -- he played only 23 minutes, and we need him to play 36. Kingsley finished with 13 points and was a presence on the glass. The progress he's made from last year is notable. Bell hit some threes early to keep the Hogs close and Dusty Hannahs finished with a game-high 17 including one from about 30 feet that surely had Al Dillard smiling.
Defensively Mike continues to stick to his defensive system that dabbles in high risk-reward, but he just doesn't have the players to make it effective right now. A huge and-1 from Watkins in the lane at the 5:34 mark got us within 64-61 but that was as close as it got.
One day the light bulb is going to turn on for Whitt, and boy do we need it to. This team is all helter-skelter and hustle...just not savvy. For now, it's simply a matter of trying to get better each game, building experience and confidence each time out, and who knows? Maybe we'll turn it on in January like the gridiron Hogs did in November.
Random thoughts and observations:
- My brother, an all-state point guard at Russellville back in the day and college player at Tech, on Kingsley: "Our best player by leaps and bounds."
- My niece, a freshman on the soccer team at UAB, on Hannahs: "He's cute. He should be in One Direction."
- Me, to the beautiful spread, and in particular the lemon ice box pie by one Wanda Carter, that awaited me at noon: "Get in my belly."
- Kouassi had his best outing as a Hog, flashing signs of being able to help down low. He's just got to learn to finish at the rim.
- The offense still looks a hot mess, but we can get to the hoop. Again, just gotta finish.
- We all knew coming in this was a rebuilding year and that we might struggle, especially early. Patience....
- Thanksgiving is so awesome. Food, football, family. (And in ours, extreme frisbee golf.) Here's hoping everyone is enjoying all of those things. Take a minute to count your blessings today. Each of us has more than we realize.
- Hoop Hogs at 11:30 Friday morning; gridiron Hogs to follow at 1:30. A Razorback double-header. Doesn't get much better than that. See y'all in Razorback Stadium tomorrow.