By Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE — No. 10 Arkansas got its season off to a good start on Monday night with an easy 76-58 win over North Dakota State in Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks played without Nick Smith Jr. who was withheld from the game due to right knee management. It was described as a precautionary measure and there’s no timetable for his return. Eric Musselman was glad to see his team move to 1-0 with the win.
“I thought we played really, really hard defensively,” Musselman said. “Did a great job from a defensive standpoint especially in the first half holding them to 8 of 26 from the field 30 percent. The biggest thing was how do we contain the 3-ball? We did a great job of holding them to 5 of 21 from 3.”
Despite no Smith, Arkansas got some big performances from Ricky Council IV, Trevon Brazile and Davonte “Devo” Davis. Council is a transfer from Wichita State. He finished with a game-high 22 points while also adding three rebounds and two assists. Trevon Brazile, a Missouri transfer, had a double-double in his Razorback debut with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Davis, one of two returnees, finished with 18 points, six rebounds and two steals.
Following the game, Musselman was very complimentary of Brazile.
“TB off the bench we needed some kind of pop,” Musselman said. “I thought he was phenomenal offensively going 7 of 14 from the field and knocked down three 3’s at 6-foot-11. He did a great job on the defensive glass with 11 defensive rebounds. We know how talented he is.”
The Razorbacks had a 34-26 lead at intermission, but stretched the lead to as many as as 21 points in the second half. Arkansas had a 76-55 lead with nine seconds remaining in the game. The Hogs dominated in the paint 44-24. Arkansas had 11 turnovers in the game compared to 14 for the opponent. Musselman wasn’t pleased with the turnovers.
“We’ve got to take a little bit better care of the basketball,” Musselman said. “Obviously 11 turnovers, five coming from Devo Davis, that’s an area we’ve got to get much, much better at.”
Musselman heaped praise on Council, too, who also was making his Razorback debut.
“Ricky can create offense when things break down,” Musselman said. “He goes 9 of 14 from the field, so excellent job on his shot selection. Up until today we weren’t even sure we were going to start Ricky, so he did a phenomenal job of stepping into the starting lineup kind of at the last minute.”
Grant Nelson and Boden Shumberg each had 17 points to lead North Dakota State. Nelson added six rebounds. Andrew Morgan also had seven points, seven rebounds and two steals.
Makhi Mitchell added eight points, four rebounds and three steals in his Razorback debut and was in the starting lineup. Anthony Black had three points, seven rebounds, three assists and a trio of steals. Jordan Walsh added four points, two rebounds and three assists.
The Razorbacks will be at home on Friday night to host Fordham at 7:00 p.m.