Arkansas Razorback Basketball

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – After recently stressing eschewing the 3-point shot to drive inside and attract more free throws attempted, Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks changed course and de-feathered the South Carolina Gamecocks with sprees of threes.

The Razorbacks hit 15 of 33 threes, 10 of 20 during their 49-32 first half, routing the Gamecocks, 101-73 Tuesday night at USC’s Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.

Musselman postgame explained the tactical change vs. South Carolina’s zone compared to defeating LSU’s zone last Saturday at Walton Arena.
“You always want to read the defense and read where you can get shots from,” Musselman said. “We’ve been really focused on getting free throws attempted and trying to score paint points. We did not talk much at all leading up to this game about paint points.

We didn’t over-emphasize the three, but I did think that we were going to be able to get more three-ball looks.”

He explained why.

‘I think the interior of South Carolina’s really physical,” Musselman said. “So I think naturally our guys felt if we could swing the zone and make the ball change sides of the floor that we would get some open looks. And I thought we did a great job sharing it.”

The Hogs did not rely on a one-pass, jack a three attack.

“We had over 300 passes tonight,” Musselman said. “I’ve never seen that in a college game. We had 305 passes for the game. We had 154 passes in the first half.”

Depth was a Tuesday night emphasis. Especially with recently effective backup center Jaylin Williams not traveling to Columbia, S.C. for reasons that Musselman did not specify and combo guards Davonte “Devo” Davis and JD Notae increasingly taking the point guard load off graduate transfer Jalen Tate.

“I thought Notae did a great job coming in and being a ball mover,” Musselman said. “I thought Devo, he played more point guard minutes than he has maybe in a while. I just thought that right now the ball club is enjoying playing with each other and they’re enjoying sharing the basketball.”

Musselman in the past has tempered praising Notae’s sixth-man instant offense production by wincing on Notae’s defense. Not lately, though. And certainly not post South Carolina.

“Notae’s playing a lot better defense, and he’s causing steals,” Musselman said of Notae’s five thefts of the 10 total steals against the Gamecocks. “So I think that definitely i has really helped us a lot. To get 10 steals is a lot in game. I think we have more active hands, and we did change our defensive concept on pick-and-roll coverage as well as just whether the ball is, our guys know where we’re funneling the ball to.”

Musselman is liking Notae’s offense better, too.

“JD’s shot selection was really good,” Musselman said.

While mainstays Moses Moody, 28 points and seven rebounds, and Justin Smith, 22 points and eight rebounds, continued excelling the Razorbacks derived four shot blocks from starting center Connor Vanover, “good minutes,” Musselman said, minus Jaylin Williams from reserve centers Ethan Henderson and Vance Jackson and a big slump breaking night from junior guard Desi Sills, 15 points on five threes including 4 of his first 4 breaking the game open during the first half.

“I think it’s really important for team chemistry and for guys feeling good about their individual game,” Musselman said of depth forging to the front. “I mean, everybody has felt good about collectively where we are as a team. So I think that’s good for chemistry for sure.”

The nationally No. 12 Razorbacks, 20-5 overall and the No. 2 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament clinched with a 12-4 second-place behind SEC champion Alabama, close the regular season at 4 p.m. Saturday hosting the Texas A&M Aggies at Walton Arena on the SEC Network.

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