Basketball

Razorbacks Roll to 3-0, Defeat UT Arlington 72 – 60

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Following a 15-point victory against North Texas, the Razorbacks welcomed UT Arlington to town for their third non-conference game of the season. Coming into the contest against the Hogs, the Mavericks held a 1-2 record with both of their losses coming by seven or fewer points. This looked to be a great early-season test for the new look Razorbacks.

Rotation Speculation

After the Razorbacks’ victory against North Texas, I released this article that included a lengthy section discussing Musselman’s rotations. I didn’t claim that change was needed but rather wondered aloud what Musselman’s plan was moving forward. He played only six players more than 10 minutes in that game, including a monstrous 34-minute outing for 7’3 big man, Connor Vanover. At the time, I assumed the rotation was matchup dependent, as well as being altered on the fly by the stellar performance taking shape from Vanover.

With full faith in Musselman moving forward, he answered my thoughts entirely in the Razorbacks’ contest against UT Arlington. All nine players that saw the court played at least 12 minutes, including freshman big man, Jaylin Williams, who didn’t see the floor at all in Game 2. I fully expect Musselman to continue tinkering with his rotations and minute allocations, but I must admit, I’m happy to know Musselman doesn’t seem intent on playing a tight 6 or 7-man rotation throughout the season. Instead, he seems to like adjusting rotations and playing time depending on each matchup, as only teams with great depth can.

Stall Ball

With roughly 7:30 left on the game clock, the Razorbacks slowed things way down. They started draining the clock and looking to execute their offensive sets. It proved to be an ugly finish to an otherwise great win, but it’s not entirely because the Hogs started playing “stall ball.” The Hogs were up by 16 points at the time, so they began trying to work in their set offensive plays, many of which yielded good, open looks.

The thing that made the Razorbacks look so shaky down the stretch was simply their inability to convert good looks. Several players missed open threes, Sills missed a layup he would typically either make or draw a foul on, and Moody missed an easy look at the rim trying to avoid contact. Had the Hogs converted just a few of these looks, it could’ve easily been a 20-point victory.

Being up by double digits against a nonconference opponent this early in the season is a prime opportunity to work on offense sets and try to play yourself out of a cold stretch. It didn’t look pretty, but the Razorbacks still got it done while working through learning experiences late in the game.

Player Grades

Moses Moody | A+

The freshman phenom has officially arrived. After shooting a combined 23.8% through the Razorbacks’ first two games, Moody was due for a breakout performance, and boy did he deliver. He scored a career-high, as well as team season-high, 24 points on 58.3% shooting from the field, 66.7% from behind the arc, and 80.0% from the free-throw line. Moody was also extremely active on the boards, grabbing nine total rebounds, three of which were offensive.

Moody has been projected as a lottery pick in multiple 2021 NBA Mock Drafts, and fans of the Razorbacks are finally getting to see what the hype is all about. At 6’6 with a 7’0 wingspan, Moody has the perfect tools to be a contributing 3&D guard at the next level, not to mention his silky-smooth shooting form. The 24-point outing might be exactly the spark Moody needs to jumpstart his potentially only season with the Razorbacks.

Jalen Tate | A

Tate is a lanky, 6’6 combo guard, and his play can sometimes look out of control. However, he seems to consistently make it work. Tate’s 14 points came on 6/12 shooting, including 1/3 from long range, but his value doesn’t typically come from scoring. Tate makes winning plays, something the Razorbacks need.

Whether he’s diving on the floor for loose balls, getting the offense set, playing disciplined on-ball defense, or filling the stat sheet in other ways, Tate has been the easiest plug-and-play option at guard for any lineup. Along with his double-digit point total, Tate tallied 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in 33 minutes of action.

Connor Vanover | A

After a massive 34-minute outing in Game 2, Vanover saw his action limited to only 12 minutes against the Mavericks. However, he was still incredibly efficient. He scored 12 points on 5/6 shooting, including another 2/3 from long range. That brings Vanover’s 3-point total up to 6/9 on the season. The Razorbacks’ big man also managed to contribute a pair of rebounds and a pair of blocked shots, along with a steal, in his limited playing time Wednesday night.

Justin Smith | B-

Smith saw his first rough shooting night of the season against UTA, only hitting 26.7% of his 15 shot attempts. His free-throw shooting, however, improved drastically. After starting the season shooting 33.3%, Smith hit 3/4 from the charity stripe, double his season FTM total. He also added 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal in his team-high 35 minutes of action.

The biggest flaw that has caught my eye from Smith is his tendency to force a bad shot here and there. It’s not uncommon for players to try shooting their way out of slumps, so that might have been what Smith was doing last night, but it led to an even worse shooting performance. It’s beautiful to watch how active Smith is around the rim when grabbing rebounds, tipping in shots, and slamming home highlight-reel finishes, but when he shoots contested midrange and 3-point jumpers, it’s a different story.

JD Notae | C

Notae led the team in assists through each of the first two games this season but seemed to be searching for his own shots in Game 3. The junior transfer showed his ability to light it up from distance during the Razorbacks’ red/white game, but he seemed to be forcing shots here and there against UTA. Notae hit only one shot from long range and finished the game shooting 20% from the field.

Musselman seemed to notice Notae’s lack of selfless play in this one when he essentially substituted KK Robinson into the rotation in the position Notae held in the previous game. Both guards ended with roughly 12-13 minutes on the night. Notae is more than capable of leading this team in scoring on any given night, but he needs to continue letting the game come to him and searching for the right play, not exclusively searching for his shot.

Desi Sills | B

The clear-cut leader of this year’s Razorbacks found himself struggling from the field for the first time this season. He shot only 1/6 on FGs and finished with three points, missing each of his three 3-point attempts. Sills came into the game leading the team in scoring at 16.5 PPG, so this poor outing was somewhat surprising for Hog fans.

However, the tough and talented guard found other ways to contribute throughout the night. In 31 minutes, Sills contributed 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and tied his career-high with 4 steals. He turned the ball over only one time and committed a pair of personal fouls, both of which were manageable negative stats, to say the least.

KK Robinson | B-

Arguably the smoothest guard on the roster, Robinson should expect to see his playing time continually increase as he gets used to the collegiate game. In fact, he more than doubled his minutes from Game 2 by playing 13 minutes in Game 3. He didn’t provide a tremendous boost offensively, only scoring three points, but he also only attempted one shot making it an efficient effort for the young point guard.

Robinson also accounted for an assist offensively, but his true worth has been seen on the defensive end thus far. He is a hard-nosed, aggressive defender that clearly bothers opposing guards. He doesn’t back down from anyone and takes calculated gambles at swiping the ball from ball handlers up top as well as big men down low. Unfortunately, those gambles didn’t pay off against UTA as he fouled out without recording a single steal, but Razorbacks fans should keep an eye on his defensive numbers moving forward.

Jaylin Williams | B

Williams got the goose egg against North Texas, not seeing the floor for a single minute. This was one of the bigger question marks to watch moving forward in my eyes, but it’s safe to say we can now chalk it up to a specified game plan combined with the outstanding performance from Vanover in Game 2. Williams saw 12 minutes against UT Arlington and contributed the way only true “glue guys” can.

Williams didn’t attempt a single shot or free throw, but he doesn’t necessarily have to in order to impact games. He did grab three rebounds, one of which was offensive, to go along with a steal and a block. He also took a charge early in the game, something you don’t often see 6’10 forwards even attempt. Williams knows exactly how to execute in his role on the team, and because of that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his minute totals increase heading towards conference play.

Vance Jackson Jr. | C-

The 6’9 grad transfer came into this season as a known 3-point marksman, but he didn’t live up to the hype in this game. He attempted three shots from distance, five total from the field, and missed every single one of them. None of the shots were bad looks. In fact, many of them rolled around the rim before falling off, leading me to believe this was just a slightly off game for Jackson and not something that will happen consistently.

Despite the poor shooting performance, Jackson did manage to contribute in other ways, including five rebounds and an assist. After one of Jackson’s missed shots late in the first half, he can be seen sprinting to the other end of the court, setting his feet, and drawing an offensive foul on the UTA fast break. That type of maturity is exactly what you want to see from the Razorbacks’ graduate transfer, but it would be nice to combine that type of hustle with a few points next time.

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