Little Rock Controversy
In the first meeting between the two teams, the Razorbacks survived a nail bitter against Valparaiso, 72-68. If you couldn’t make the trip to Little Rock, you likely missed out on one of the better games this season. This is due to the arena’s inability to broadcast games without the proper equipment. A little over a week away from 2020, it’s a little mind-boggling that basic technology is still an issue for an arena that often hosts an SEC team, but that’s a controversy for another article.
What Went Well
Arkansas jumped out to an early lead thanks to a balanced attack from their three stars: Jones, Joe, and Whitt. A couple unexpected threes from Adrio Bailey, doubling his season total, made it seem like this game was going to be over quickly. Isaiah Joe looked confident tallying 21 points and knocking down 5 threes on 35.7% shooting. Despite foul trouble, Mason Jones added another 20 point performance to his resume. Whitt and Bailey rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 each. There was not a lot of eye-pleasing play on the Hogs part as it took yet another heroic performance the stretch to beat a 7-5 Valpo team. But a win is a win is a win.
Mason Jones played out the last few minutes of the game with 4 fouls. 3 were offensive. Neither the crowd nor Coach Musselman agreed with most of these calls. As was evident when Musselman got hit with his 2nd technical of the season arguing a questionable call. Despite anything the officials did or did not call, the Hogs still finished the game with almost as many turnovers as they had made FGs. Not getting back in transition also proved costly to the Razorbacks as Valpo constantly beat them down the court for easy layups. A few timely threes and forced turnovers from Valpo had the Hogs down by as many as 8 points late in the game. It is also worth noting that both Desi Sills and Mason Jones had to exit the game with injuries. Both players would eventually return after being ruled questionable.
Razorbacks Rally Late
After trailing 59-51 with 7 minutes left, the Razorbacks finally started to click. Isaiah Joe hit from deep to spark the comeback, but Mason Jones played the hero yet again. With 2 minutes left and the Hogs down 3, Jones hit back to back contested threes to take the lead. With Joe and Jones finding their range, the Hogs turned to an unlikely contributor at the most crucial time. Ending with 5 total blocks, Adrio Bailey had arguably the play of the game. Just after the Hogs retook the lead, he met Valpo’s leading scorer at the rim for an emphatic rejection on a dunk attempt. The energy he pumped into the building left no doubt about it! Arkansas had regained all the momentum at the last possible moment. After swapping FTs for FGs, the Razorbacks never lost the lead again, scrapping out a 72-68 victory in the state’s capitol.
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