Arkansas Basketball has been on fire as of late, thanks in large part to a few breakout stars and a minor lineup adjustment from head coach Eric Musselman. They head into Athens, GA, searching for their 7th straight win and 6th straight SEC win. After a poor start to their conference schedule, how did the Razorbacks get to this point – slated as a low seed in the NCAA Tournament and one of the hottest teams in the nation?
The following is a recap of the Razorbacks’ previous eight games leading them to this point in the season.
With an NBA legend sitting courtside, Arkansas and Vanderbilt battled down to the wire in Bud Walton Arena. Former Chicago Bull and NBA Champion Scottie Pippen was in the building to watch his son, Vanderbilt guard Scotty Pippen Jr. play. Despite a late push, the Razorbacks fell short losing 75-74. Pippen Jr. led Vanderbilt with 22 points.
“We missed too many foul shots. Way too many turnovers.” Said Razorback head coach Eric Musselman. Hogs shot 64% (18-28) at the free-throw line, and committed 14 turnovers. Yet Arkansas was up 40-35 at the half. With less than a minute to play Vanderbilt was up 74-68. Arkansas was able to cut the lead to one point 75-74. And with 1.2 seconds left the Hogs had one more chance, one more shot. JD Notae’s 3-pointer from the left-wing bounced off the rim as the buzzer went off. Stanley Umude led all scorers with 28 points for the Razorbacks.
Vs. Texas A&M
After jumping out to a 13-5 lead to begin the game, the Arkansas Razorbacks seemed to struggle the rest of the way. And after a back and forth first half, Texas A&M was up 37-35. The Aggies came out firing on all cylinders to start the 2nd half, at one point building a 16-point lead. Yet the Razorbacks showed some heart and fought back. And Arkansas’s leading scorer JD Notae’s (31 points) jumper was good with 1:39 left to play, cutting the Aggie lead to one point 79-78.
However, Texas A&M proved to be too tough after that. Aggie Quenton Jackson hit a critical 3-pointer late and Aggies made free throws to ensure a 86-81 win over Arkansas. The Hogs fall to 0-3 in SEC. Jackson led Texas A&M in scoring with 16 points and had 5 rebounds. Aggie Henry Coleman III chipped in 14 points and 9 rebounds.
After starting 0-3 in SEC play, the Arkansas Razorbacks needed a win and also needed a change of direction badly. The Hogs were able to accomplish both in a dominating 87-43 win over Missouri in Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas was able to steady the ship with this convincing win. Razorback forward Jaylin Williams turned in a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Hog point guard JD Notae scored a team-high 19 points in Arkansas’s first SEC win this season.
This victory proved to be the turning point for this team, with Arkansas in command, leading pretty much the entire game. This game instilled some much-needed confidence as more SEC games loom large. The Hogs also defended the Tigers at a very high level. Their tenacious team defense held the Tigers to 15 first-half points, 29.2% shooting, and 23 turnovers. It also should be noted, Coach Musselman went with a big starting lineup for the first time this season. The Hogs’ starters were JD Notae (6’2), Au’Diese Toney (6’6), Trey Wade (6’6), Kamani Johnson (6’7), and Jaylin Williams (6’10).
Two days before Arkansas played LSU in Baton Rouge, Hog head coach Eric Musselman had shoulder surgery and had to stay in Fayetteville to recover. Razorback assistant coach Keith Smart took on head coaching duties for the game. Keith Smart, a Baton Rouge native, played high school basketball at McKinley HS located close to LSU’s campus.
In a stellar second-half comeback anchored by tough man-to-man defense, the Hogs upset No.12 LSU 65-58 inside Pete Maravich Assembly Center. In the final nine minutes, Arkansas went on a 17-2 run. Allowing LSU zero points last 2:16. It was Razorback Jaylin Williams who made two critical plays back-to-back down the stretch. Williams made a huge 3-pointer late, and on the very next possession took a charge on the baseline. That charge proved to be a fatal turnover and final dagger for the Tigers.
Vs. South Carolina
To say the Arkansas Razorbacks are on the right track would be an accurate statement. In a 75-59 win over South Carolina in Bud Walton Arena, the Hogs won their third straight SEC game. And now are 3-3 in conference play. Despite the win, Arkansas went 0-11 from three-point land, snapping a 1,092 game streak with at least one 3-pointer made. A lesson to be learned from this unconventional win.
“It teaches our guys a lesson that we can win a game by double-digits without hitting a 3.” Said Hog head coach Eric Musselman. The Razorbacks’ defensive play was the difference, again. Forcing 18 South Carolina turnovers, held Gamecocks to 34% shooting, and outscored them 42-19 in the second half. Jaylin Williams led Arkansas with 19 points and had 9 rebounds. Hog point guard JD Notae chipped in 17 points. Not much was said by Hog players and coaches about the 1,092 game streak ending. Getting a third straight SEC win was the main concern.
Vs. Texas A&M
Arkansas Razorback JD Notae is the SEC in scoring, just ahead of Vanderbilt’s Scotty Pippen Jr., had to sit out the last five minutes of the game against Texas A&M. With 9 seconds left in regulation Arkansas was up 3 points 64-61, that’s when Aggie Quenton Jackson hit a 3-pointer to tie the score 64-64 and force overtime. However, SEC top scorer Notae fouled out just before the end of regulation and was forced to watch the five minutes of OT.
Arkansas forward Jaylin Williams’ performance was top-notch; 14 points, 11 rebounds, six steals, 3 assists, and 3 blocks. It was Williams’ best all-around game as a Razorback. His teammate and fellow forward Stanley Umude was outstanding as well with 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals. With Notae out for overtime, Head Hog Eric Musselman told his team “Forget about everything that happened in the first 40 minutes. We’ve got to defend at the same level we have been.” The Hogs did just that in OT and got some revenge, winning 76-73 over Texas A&M.
Vs. Ole Miss
The Arkansas Razorbacks went down to Oxford, Mississippi and won their fifth straight SEC game, defeating the Rebels 64-55 on their home court. Hog point guard JD Notae led all scorers with 25 points to go along with 5 assists. Sophomore forward Jaylin Williams chipped in 18 points and 8 rebounds. Trey Wade netted 10 points and 5 rebounds for Arkansas.
Razorback head coach Eric Musselman has his team rolling like a freight train. The Hogs are now 5-3 in SEC play. A complete turnaround after starting 0-3 in conference games. Mathew Murrell led Mississippi with 14 points, as the Rebels fall to 2-6 in SEC. The Razorbacks have won eight out of the last nine games against Ole Miss. The Razorbacks are taking care of business one game at a time. Up next West Virginia in Fayetteville.
Vs. West Virginia
In the SEC/Big 12 Challenge last Saturday, Arkansas handed West Virginia their fifth straight loss. On the other hand, the Hogs have won six in a row. This Arkansas team chemistry could not be better. Eight games ago it was a different situation completely. The red-hot Razorbacks started out this contest hitting six of their first nine shots and jumping out to a 16-5 lead, causing West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins to call a quick timeout.
Hogs started the second half hot as well, outscoring the Mountaineers 12-4. Yet West Virginia came storming back on a 16-2 run of their own. Even cutting the Hogs led to 5 points with 11 minutes left to play. Arkansas settled down and led by at least seven points the rest of the game. Razorback forward Jaylin Williams got another double-double with 12 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Au’Diese Toney was the Hogs high scorer netting 19 points and snagging 7 rebounds. With 10 SEC games left for the Razorbacks, who knows how things play out, but I’d think twice about betting against Coach Musselman’s guys the rest of the way.
Main image credit: