Basketball

Razorbacks Dominate Game 1: Player Grades

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Eric Musselman led his Razorback squad a dominant victory in their first game of the season. Arkansas won by an astonishing 80-point margin of victory, 142-62. The 142 points scored by the Hogs is the second most in school history, as well as the highest ever at Bud Walton Arena.

The blowout provided ample opportunity for coach Muss to test a variety of unique lineups, and for him to play a few of his walk-ons from the end of the bench. Points were aplenty, allowing eight different Razorbacks to score in double digits with a ninth Hog only one point away. In a game as dominant as this, every player looked good, including the walk-ons that rarely see the court. For the purpose of this article, we’ve graded the performances of every player who saw more than 10 minutes on the court.

Connor Vanover | A+

Vanover was an incredibly efficient scorer against MSVU, and Razorback fans can likely expect more of the same moving forward. The 7’3 shooter was the only Hog to tally more points than minutes played in his first game with Arkansas, scoring 23 points in only 18 minutes of action.

Vanover hit 72.7% of his total shots, 80% of his 3-point shots, and 100% of his free throws. Shooting doesn’t get much more efficient than that. The transfer big man also grabbed eight rebounds and swatted away three shots Wednesday night while not accumulating a single foul or turnover. If Hog fans are thankful for anything this Thanksgiving, it should be Connor Vanover.

Desi Sills | A+

The Preseason All-SEC guard showed exactly why coaches around the league remember his name. In 20 minutes of action, added 19 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals, but this well-rounded stat line doesn’t tell the full story. Sills was also incredible efficient, knocking down 80% of his total shots including 2/3 from behind the arc.

One of Sills’ biggest weaknesses in years passed was his over-aggressive play style leading to too many fouls, but the lone returning Razorback on this list tallied zero fouls or turnovers to go along with his team-leading three steals. Clearly, the junior guard has worked tireless to improve his consistency and IQ, putting up an incredibly efficient effort worthy of an All-SEC selection if you ask me.

KK Robinson | A

At times, Robinson looked like the best player on the court for either team. His jump shot is confident and smooth, his ball handling is already SEC-ready, and his arsenal of finishes around the rim seems to be bottomless. The true freshman point guard scored 15 points on nearly 63% shooting in 18 minutes of action off the bench.

Robinson also accounted for 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal, a well-rounded stat line for a college debut. Third on the team in 3-pointers made with three, Robinson was one of six Hogs to shoot 60% or better from behind the 3-point line.

Jaylin Williams | A

Williams is the second true freshman on this list, and nothing from his performance should put him below the first as he earns the same grade. In 20 minutes, the 6’10 forward missed out on the double-digit club by only one point while shooting 60% from the floor and 50% from 3-point range.

The best part of this, Williams will not be relied on to score on a game-by-game basis; his scoring contributions are a bonus. Instead, Williams is carving out a role as the “glue guy.” He grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds, dished out an assist, and even drew a charge late in the game. Every team needs a guy to do the dirty work, so to speak, and Williams, with his size, shooting, and versatility, is the perfect candidate to fill that role on this Razorback team.

Vance Jackson | A

Jackson is one of three graduate transfers to make their Razorback debuts Wednesday night, and none of the trio disappointed. Of the three, Jackson played the fewest minutes but also managed to score the most points. He shot 55.6% from the floor and 66.7% from distance on his way to 15 points in only 15 minutes of action.

The point forward didn’t dish out any assists in his first game, but he did snatch seven rebounds, two of which were offensive. Jackson (6’9) was the third leading rebounder on the team, trailing the only two players on the roster taller than him, Williams (6’10) and Vanover (7’3).

It’s also worth noting that Jackson surpassed 1,000 career points when he hit his fourth consecutive 3-pointer midway through the first half. It’s clear Jackson has the experience and talent to greatly benefit this team, and fans are sure to be thankful point number 1,000 came in the Razorback cardinal and white.

Justin Smith | A-

Starting at center, Smith grabbed only four total rebounds, although three of them were offensive. He also scored the team’s first four points, both on easy finishes right around the rim, on his way to 13 total points. Smith shot 66.7% from the field and rounded out his stat line with 3 steals and 2 assists. Though he managed to play 20 minutes without tallying a single personal foul or turnover, Smith only shot 1/3 from the free throw line.

Something that may be overlooked in Smith’s performance was the versatility he displayed throughout the game. Despite starting at center, Smith quickly and seamlessly transitioned to a small forward role alongside Williams and Vanover when they took the court. He and Jackson are incredibly versatile for the size, providing valuable assets for coach Muss moving forward.

Jalen Tate | B+

Tate, the 6’6 guard, started at point for the Razorbacks in game one. He played only 17 minutes but managed to score 12 points on 4/7 shooting, including 2/3 from long range. Tate finished second on the team with six assists while also adding five rebounds. The former Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year also added a steal while playing stellar on-ball defense.

Tate’s well-rounded stat line keeps his overall grade high, but he did make a few mistakes in his Razorback debut. He led the team in turnovers, albeit only turning the ball over twice. Tate also racked up three fouls to go along with his lone steal. It’s only one game, but this poor ratio is something to keep an eye on moving forward as it doesn’t yield efficient defense.

JD Notae | B

Notae led the team in total minutes played at 24, and managed to tack on 13 points, a team-high 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. Despite putting up 30 points in the recent red/white game, Notae appeared to play with a pass-first mentality against the MVSU Devils, showing his ability to be an unselfish team player.

Though he’s more than capable of catching fire from behind the arc, Notae hit only two of his five 3-point attempts. He also struggled shooting from other parts of the floor, making 42.9% of his field goals and 62.5% of his free throws. Despite the poor shooting performance, this is not something Razorback fans should expect consistently.

The more troublesome part of Notae’s performance came from his four personal fouls and zero steals. This is another aspect that may not be a consistent part of Notae’s game, but foul trouble is never good for any team, not even one equipped with the level of depth Arkansas has this year.

Davonte Davis | B-

Davis is the third freshman to appear on this list, but was lowest on the roster in terms of our season predictions. The 6’4 guard has some work to do on his jumpshot, but his IQ, versatility, and potential are through the roof. These were on display as Davis made 2/5 FGs en route to 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. In 12 minutes of action, Davis was not overly efficient, though he showed flashes of tremendous ability and potential.

Davis is another guard that tallied more total fouls than steals, though it was only 1 and 0 respectively. Those numbers shouldn’t be cause for concern yet, but it’s not uncommon for freshmen to be overly aggressive on defense. Davis is essentially the 10th man on the roster, making this even less of a concern for the team as a whole.

Moses Moody | C+

Perhaps the most highly anticipated new Razorback this season, Moody did not live up to the hype in his first game. It’s strange to think this is true considering Moody finished with 16 points, third highest on the team, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists. Keep in mind, C+ is not a terrible grade to have, especially not after one game, it’s simply not as high as the other outstanding performances we saw from other Hogs.

The reason for Moody’s team-low grade comes in his efficiency. He shot only 3/12 (25%) from the field and 1/6 (16.7%) from 3-point range. The lack of efficiency was disappointing at times and perhaps stemmed from the immense expectations of the true freshman to succeed immediately in year one. However, his poor shooting performance allowed us to see just how good of a player Moody can be.

When it was clear his shot wasn’t falling, Moody found other ways to contribute and help his team. The rest of his stat line was very well rounded, and he managed to rack up 16 points by getting to the rim and drawing fouls. The team as a whole shot 78.8% from the FT line, but Moody put up an impressive 9/10 from the charity stripe. SEC beware, this kid is going to be special when he finds his groove.

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