The Razorbacks made their way to the second-biggest island in Hawaii to compete in the 2022 Maui Invitational. The tournament was star-studded with top 20 teams in 10 Creighton, 14 Arizona, 17 San Diego State, and, of course, 9 Arkansas.Maui is the first litmus test for the young team and a great showing could foreshadow what type of season Arkansas could have. Arkansas’s first test was Louisville.
Louisville VS Arkansas
Louisville had struggled early this year, losing all 3 of their pre-tournament games by one point. Against the Hogs, they wouldnot find any release. Arkansas started slow on offense only breaking double digits at the 11:06 mark, but their smothering defense held Louisville to just 7 in that time frame. From there out, it was all Hogs.
The Razorbacks’ showcased their length and athleticism the rest of the game, especially in the second half. On mostly fast breaks created by their defense, Arkansas dunked the ball 8 times in the second half.
Arkansas defeats Louisville 80-54 with EIGHT dunks in the second half pic.twitter.com/f0BrdLQP2n— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) November 22, 2022
Arkansas began to pull away midway through the second halfand sealed the win. 80-54
Defensively, the Hogs were very good. Arkansas held the Cardinals to 36.4% (16-44) from the field and 33.3% (4-12) from beyond the 3-point line. Arkansas forced 22 turnovers and stole a possession 10 times. The Hogs also outrebounded Louisville 28-24.
Arkansas came out slow on offense but eventually found their stride. They knocked down 56.9% of their shots (29-51) and 36.4% from deep (8-22). The Razorbacks were extremely unselfish with a season-high 20 assists.
Anthony Black led the Hogs with 26-points followed by Ricky Council with 15. Black also led in assists with 6. Devo Davis was next in line with 5. The Mitchell twins led in rebounds with 6 boards each.
*Notably, Trevon Brazile—who has been a big piece on both sides of the floor—was a non-factor in this game and Arkansas still won the game going away.
Next in a top 10 match-up, Arkansas faced Creighton.
Creighton VS Arkansas
Creighton offered a tough matchup for the Hogs. Arkansas’s defense was a bit overmatched early in the contest. The Blue Jays were able to get many open looks from deep and hit them. And even when the shot was contested, Creighton was just knocking them down left and right. Creighton would go up as much as 10-points in the first half, but the Hogs kept clawing their way back into the game. By half, Arkansas was only down by six, 34-40.
Arkansas came out of half and stormed back, taking the lead 50-48 at the 14:42 mark on a Trevon Brazile layup. The Hogs and Blue Jays then battled back and forth, changing the lead 5 more times before the end of the game. With 4 seconds left Anthony Black tried to draw a foul from the 3-point line and made the shot instead, bringing Arkansas within one.
Literally what is this game pic.twitter.com/nwxJ4x0MfD— Arkansas Razorbacks Men’s Basketball (@RazorbackMBB) November 23, 2022
In the end, Creighton’s offense, experience, and to be honest, afew questionable calls from the refs, proved too much for the young Hogs. Arkansas gave up over 58% from the field (31-53), 50% from the 3-point line (7-14), and Arkansas was outrebounded 31-35. The bright spot for the Hogs is that they force a very disciplined Creighton team to turn over the ball 17 times, including 8 steals.
Offensively, Arkansas again started slow but ended up shooting 47.1% (33-70), 40% (8-20) from downtown. The Razorbacks also had 15 assists to only 9 turnovers.
Anthony Black had himself a game. He led the team in scoring (26), tied Trevon Brazile in rebounds (6), and led in assists (6). Ricky Council and Trevon Brazile followed in scoring with 24 and 17-points, respectfully.
In the consolation bracket, Arkansas played San Diego State for 3rd place.
San Diego State VS Arkansas
On Tuesday’s game against Creighton, Arkansas showed just a flash of what this team could be in March, even without the top player in the 2022 class according to 247 sports, Nick Smith Jr. The game against San Diego State—another second weekend of the NCAA tournament type of team—would show just how tough the young Arkansas team could be.
The Hogs and Aztecs opened the game matching shot for shot. It wasn’t until the 9:49 mark in the first half that San Diego State started to pull away. The Aztecs went on an 11-0 run and held Arkansas scoreless for over 4 minutes. Arkansas would shorten the lead but only to 9 by the end of the first half.
Trevon Brazile opened up the second half for Arkansas with the team’s first 3-pointer of the night. Another shot made by Jordan Walsh closed the gap to 4. San Diego State then went on a small run to bring the lead up to 10. The entire second half repeated this pattern. Arkansas would slowly claw their way back into the game and the Aztecs would hit a quick run extending the lead again. But with the persistence of prehistoric humans hunting their prey, the hogs continued to fight.
With seconds left in the game and Arkansas down by 2, Anthony Black and Trevon Brazile trapped Lamont Butler off the inbound forcing him to lose control of the basketball. Brazilejumped on the ball and called a quick timeout with 7 seconds left. The Hogs inbounded the ball to Anthony Black who missed a contested layup, but Kamani Johnson came in clutch with a buzzer-beater put-back shot to tie the game and sent it to overtime. The Hogs took the lead in overtime at the 2:45 mark and never looked back. The Hogs win a tough one, 78-74
HE LIFTS WEIGHTS pic.twitter.com/hfWTIGqo2E— Arkansas Razorbacks Men’s Basketball (@RazorbackMBB) November 24, 2022
Arkansas shot 40% from the field (24-60), 17.6% from the 3-point line (3-17), and had 8 assists. Defensively, the Hogs held San Diego State to 43.5% (27-62), 11.1% from deep (2-18), and turned them over 16 times. Arkansas also won the rebound battle 40-34.
Trevon Brazile led the team in scoring with 20 points. Ricky Council was right behind Brazile with 19-points (18 of which were scored in the second half/overtime). Brazile also led the team in rebounds with 9, followed by Kamani Johnson’s 7 boards.
There really is no competition. Black scored 67 points in the three games, averaging 55% from the field (22-40), had 14 rebounds, and 13 assists. Black’s maturity is way above his years. At times during the tournament, he alone created offensive opportunities, for both himself and his teammates. And when he was off the court, the offense would slow down immensely.
If black were Batman, Council would be his Robin, only cooler. Council scored 54 points, shot 41% (21-51), had 9 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Although Brazile was a non-factor in the first game, he came in hard in the last two. Brazile had 38 points, shooting 46.4% (13-28), and had 17 rebounds.
Johnson (7 points, 7 rebounds) did not record a minute in the first two contests and if you look at the stat sheet, there is not much to be impressed about. But when Arkansas neededphysicality the most, Johnson was there to provide it. His 7 rebounds came in clutch down the stretch, including the offensive rebound and put-back to tie the game in the second half of the San Diego State game.