FAYETTEVILLE , (Ark.) — Prior to today’s game, the news was dropped that Nick Smith Jr, the former #1 recruit according to 247 Sports and star Guard for the Hogs, would be out for the foreseeable future. Coupled with the Injury to rising star Trevon Brazile, it seems like the rain just keeps pouring. Now, in a classic trap game, the Razorbacks needed to come together and push their way to the conference opener, and boy did they ever.
The first half could not have gone much better for the Hogs. In every aspect, Arkansas dominated the Bulldogs. Arkansas looked almost Globetrotter-like with some spectacular ball movement. It also led to an assist frenzy to start the half. Nine of Arkansas’s first twelve baskets were assisted by 5 different players. And to top it all off, that was just the first 10 minutes. Coach Musselman then opted to put in some bench players starting with Darion Ford and shortly after, Joseph Pinion. Both received huge minutes, especially Pinion with 19.
The Hogs were able to hold UNC Ashville—normally a team that shoots close to 50% on average—to just 33% in the first half, including holding the Bulldogs to just 9 points before Musselman began to pull starters around the 10-minute mark.The rest of the half was the Jalen Graham show, going 5 for 5 and hitting 50% of the baskets in the last 10 minutes.
The Razorbacks began the final 20 minutes with their starting 5but quickly started to dive into the bench again. Graham and Pinion took over, scoring 6 and 7 points, respectfully. Even with a 30-point plus lead, two were still working. With just over 7 minutes left, Pinion took the ball down the court on a fast break and lobbed it high to Graham for a one-handed slam.
Not to be outdone, Pinion took two of his own shots to the rim on fast breaks, including a one-handed slam after a great defensive play by Graham.
Arkansas finished the game shooting 53.3% (32-60) from the field and 38.5% (5-13) from the 3-point line. The Hogs had a good assist-to-turnover ratio at 20:10. On defense, the Hogs put on a stellar performance. Arkansas allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 40% (20-50) and just 16.7% (2-12) from beyond the arch. Arkansas force a whopping 20 turnovers and stole 15 of them. The Razorbacks also won the rebound battle 36-28.
All but 3 of the 13 players to touch the floor contributed to the score and all but 4 had an assist. Jalen Graham led the team with 16 points and Rickey Council came in second with 12. The was a four-way tie for the assist leader. Makhi Mitchell, Anthony Black, Devo Davis, and Joseph Pinion all had 3.
Kamani Johnson was an absolute monster crashing the board today with 7 rebounds, including 5 offensive boards. The only player close was Jordan Walsh with 4.
The Hogs finally start conference play a week from today, on December 28th. They’ll head to Baton Rouge to play the LSU Tigers who struggled with a 4-9 East Tennessee State teamtoday, beating them 72-68.