This one counted. This was not an exhibition. The Arkansas basketball season is officially underway, and it started with a win over Fort Wayne.
The team was much more efficient offensively than we saw in Arkansas’ opening effort in the exhibition games. Six players scored in double figures, and Dusty Hannahs led the way with 23.
But Fort Wayne stayed with the Hogs for much of the game, including leading for almost half of the first half. Arkansas never really pulled away. The Hogs led throughout the second half but it wasn’t until the last few minutes when Arkansas built and held a double-digit lead. A few times the lead was cut to four points, but it was never closer than that.
The most glaring reason the game stayed close was rebounding. Arkansas was outrebounded 45-39, and Fort Wayne scored 21 second-chance points (and 21 offensive rebounds) to Arkansas’ 9. That’s something Mike Anderson noted after the game was really disappointing to him. He said they’ll do some suicides for it.
The heralded juco guards, Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon, played among the most minutes on the team. Macon scored 13 points and Barford 10. Macon also had seven rebounds and five assists and led the team with 33 minutes on the floor, which is a lot for a Mike Anderson team, especially in nonconference play. Barford had 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Moses Kingsley scored 9 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Solid numbers but nowhere near SEC Player of the Year types of numbers. It might be more difficult for him to score as much as he did last year because there are many more scoring options on this team than there were last season. It’ll be interesting to see how his numbers progress through the season. He only scored in single digits twice last season.
Manny Watkins and Anton Beard came off the bench to score 21 points. Dustin Thomas started and scored 10 points, and seemed fine after taking a nasty looking fall early in the game. He went up for a block but was undercut and fell on his head. He stayed on the floor for a couple of minutes before walking back to the bench and eventually returning to the game.
Oh, and there were 53 fouls. I overheard some fans in the restroom at halftime complaining about the team not going fast enough, but there were almost 30 fouls in the first half. That’s a lot of whistles. It’s hard to get going in a rhythm when that happens. Anderson said afterward the number of whistles made it feel like a game of spurts. Teams would go up and down the floor a couple of times and then a foul each time. Apparently this is common throughout college basketball so far this year. I’m just going to say, it’s ugly. Free throw percentage should be an extra highly valued part of recruiting, it seems like.
That said, the first game is in the books and the Razorbacks won. Fort Wayne is the preseason favorite to win their conference, so it’s possible Arkansas just beat an NCAA team, though we’ll obviously have to wait and see on that. But it was a solid start for the Hogs.