Hogs defense stands up in second half for 69-57 win at home over Ole Miss

Razorback freshman guard Anthony Black (#0) from Duncanville, TX slams it down for two against Ole Miss Saturday afternoon at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE — No. 25 Arkansas snapped a four-game skid and defeated Ole Miss 69-57 on Saturday in Bud Walton Arena.

The Hogs got a big lift off the bench from Morrilton’s Joseph Pinion as well as good performances from Jordan Walsh, Davonte Davis and Anthony Black. Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis admitted Pinion’s performance was a big difference in the game. The Hogs made eight 3-pointers with three from Pinion.

“They average making about four a game in our league and so we were really trying to focus on the gaps,” Davis said. “I thought we did a really good job in the first half. But they still got some 50-50 balls and some offensive rebounds and then we just had some turnovers in the backcourt that just led to buckets.

“Then Pinion made –  I don’t know how many (points) he made, maybe eight – but he sure helped them. Then they got going a little bit when they got up…So I thought the same thing – him coming in and just catching and shooting it kind of flip the game a little bit.”

Eric Musselman also praised Pinion, who is a true freshman for his performance. He had eight points in the first half including two from distance. The Hogs needed that pair of treys from Pinion. The Hogs held a narrow 26-25 lead with 1:45 remaining in the first half when Pinion hit a 3-pointer. He added another with 51 seconds remaining in the first half.

“I thought Joseph really played well,” Musselman said. “There are a lot of things that go into decision making, and Joseph Pinion tonight rebounded the ball. He had five rebounds in just 21 minutes. He had four defensive rebounds. Defensive rebounding was a high, high priority coming into the game. It was something we talked about the last 48 hours that we needed to collectively defensive rebound. There’s no doubt his 3-for-6 from the field, that being Joseph Pinion, was extremely important to us.

“Defensively, I thought he did a really good job. He was really solid from a defensive standpoint, and loose balls and rebounding are important as well. Tonight, he got loose balls. Had a steal. One of our 12 steals was with Joseph. So, he played well, and with him it is going to be matchups. We felt there was a couple good matchups for him defensively. Certainly, from an offensive standpoint there is no doubt Joseph can help us and stretch the floor out. I give him a lot of credit for his confidence shooting the ball. When he comes in games, he is locked and loaded and shot ready.”

Pinion also added a block which definitely caught Musselman’s attention.

“He competes,” Musselman said. “A lot of games are going to be matchups. Again, we felt coming into the game there was a couple guys that would be players that would defensively be a good matchup from our side of the ball with him.”

As a team one thing Arkansas did well on Saturday was cutback considerably on turnovers. They only had 11 compared to 17 for Ole Miss. Turnovers have hampered the Hogs since SEC play started.

“There are always two sides of it,” Musselman said. “Ole Miss will 1-3-1 and make you eat clock. It’s not just the University of Arkansas against Missouri turning the ball over. They’ve led the country in steals most of the season. Then you add in the fact that you played in front of a sold-out building, or close to it, and a team that plays that way. Certainly, getting a shot on goal for us is important because we feel like we’re a good offensive rebounding team.

“So, no live-ball turnovers… Just like in football, if you turn the ball over in football, you’re probably not going to win. So, for us, the way we go through droughts scoring, we can’t turn the ball over. If we don’t, I think you’ll see results like our defense tonight. So, some of the defensive struggles of late have really not been defensive struggles. It has been our offense has let us down with taking care of the ball. Then it looks like we’re not defending when in reality you could have nine guys out there defensively, but when you have live-ball turnovers there’s not much you can do.”

Black was outstanding for the Hogs. He had 17 points, three rebounds, eight assists and five steals to play a very complete game.

“With a lot of our young guys, you just want them to keep growing, to keep playing with confidence,” Musselman said. “But his stat line … First of all, with a guy his size, and then you’re going against some of the smaller point guards with great quickness, a guy like 24, (Daeshun) Ruffin … His ability around the rim. We posted him up one time.

“We posted him up one time on baseline out of bounds. So, you’re seeing growth in his game on both sides of the ball. There are not many freshmen that are going to have 17, 8 and 5 steals. I mean, five steals to me is as impressive as anything he did tonight.”

Davis contributed 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and had one steal. He was 6 of 11 from the field and was 3 of 5 from beyond the 3-point line. Musselman talked about how Davis has improved his shooting.

“I think just his work ethic,” Musselman said. “I got in today and worked out … I think I got here at 7:06 and he was either finishing or close to finishing shooting. His work ethic has been extremely consistent on a daily basis on his own. And I think he’s really focused. He’s a guy that just the steady approach of getting his work in on his own has been really impressive. And we need him to continue to play really well on both ends. 

“You can look at Devo’s stat like and the 3 for 5 for threes and the 6 of 11 [overall], but his defense, it’s like every single night he’s taking a star player. And not doing a good job, but doing a phenomenal job from a defensive standpoint. I cannot talk enough about his defense. I can go on and on at how he has defended at an incredible elite level.”

Walsh contributed 13 points, seven rebounds and had one steal. He also played the entire game avoiding foul issues that have limited his playing time in recent games.

Ole Miss was led by Jayveous McKinnis with 10 points and six rebounds and Ruffin with 10 points, four rebounds and two steals.

Arkansas (13-6, 2-5) will be at home again on Tuesday night to host LSU on ESPN2. 

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