RazorbacksSports

Arkansas vs. Auburn Rematch Advance

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – You might think these Auburn Tigers that Arkansas beat, 97-85 Dec. 30 opening the SEC season at Auburn, Ala. would provide the ideal rematch tonic at Walton Arena tonight for a Razorbacks team that has lost four of its last five games and was routed its last two.

Think again.  Other than home court, and in these covid-19 times restricted attendance mostly minimizes home court advantage, momentum has the eye of the Tigers coming into tonight’s  8 o’clock SEC Network telecast.

Auburn, 8-6 overall, and Arkansas, 10-4 overall, share the same 2-4 SEC records but not the same recent SEC results.

Since Auburn freshman phenom point guard Sharife Cooper was declared first-time NCAA eligible three games ago,  Coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers nearly beat in a 94-90 overtime loss the SEC unbeaten Alabama Crimson Tide that last Saturday rolled  Arkansas, 90-59 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. followed by victories at Georgia and home against Kentucky.

Cooper impacted them all.  He tallied  26 points with nine assists against Alabama; scored 28 points with  12 assists against Georgia,  and scored 11 points and dealt  eight assists against Kentucky.

“You can change your whole program  with one or two players,” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said Monday night on his Eric Musselman Live radio show. “And he’s that good a player to step in and have that type of impact with no nonconference games to get his feet wet.”

Musselman explained why.

“If there is one word to describe Sharife Cooper it’s he’s electric,” Musselman said.  “He makes home run plays. In my time coaching college basketball he’s the best advance passer and finding players in transition. So it’s not just the scoring, it’s the assists.”

Cooper doesn’t score in threes, not 3-pointers anyway hitting but 1 of 16.  But he’ll score threes on and-ones, already  24 of 32 free throws in just three games.

“He’s so great getting in the lane and drawing free throws,” Musselman said.

And his assists help others hit threes on an Auburn team that, as would Alabama last Saturday, strafed Arkansas with 15 made threes in the SEC opener.

Allen Flanigan, Jamal Johnson and Devin Cambridge combined for 13 of 20 treys back on Dec. 30 vs. the Hogs.

“We’ve got to become a better defensive team in a short amount of time,” Musselman said.

Auburn’s best 3-point shooter going into that  Dec. 30

game, freshman Justin Powell, failed to hit a trey on Arkansas but averages 11.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

Powell has missed the last several games injured.

 Musselman, after allegedly questionable because of injuries Cameron Thomas for LSU and Alabama’s Herbert Jones and Jahvon Quinerly all played against Arkansas, presumes Powell playing too.

“With our luck we can be assured he’s going to be suiting up,” Musselman mused dryly.

Auburn often simultaneously employs two of three big men,

6-8 starters Jaylin Williams, not to be confused with Arkansas’ 6-10 freshman  forward Jaylin Williams, 6-10 JT Thor and  6-10 reserve Babatunde  Akingbola.

Having somebody near his own size to play against helped Arkansas 7-3 center Connor Vanover on Dec. 30.

Vanover posted by far his best SEC game, 17 points, five boards, a blocked shot and a steal, in his SEC debut vs. Auburn.

However, the Tigers play faster with Cooper on the point, Musselman stressed Monday.

Freshman guard Moses Moody, 25, 18 and 28 points his last three games, has been Arkansas’ lone recently consistent offensive threat.

Musselman hopes junior guard Desi Sills, slumping since scoring 23 on Auburn, can relax and recapture his game that’s he pressed to pursue.

And he seeks graduate transfer point guard Jalen Tate minimizing his recent rash of first-half turnovers while graduate transfer forward Justin Smith, one tentative game back from ankle surgery after injured against Auburn, more regains his basketball legs and conditioning.

I’ve kind of felt like it would probably take two or three games, just like it does anybody, for the player to feel fully confident with the injury,” Musselman said during Tuesday’s press conference.

Regarding the team in general, “I think our guys are ready to hit the reset button,” Musselman said.

To hit that reset button tonight, Musselman said, “We have to challenge the three,  keep Cooper out of the lane and we’ve got to rebound.”

ARKANSAS  (10-4, 2-4)

F-Justin Smith        6-7    Sr.     10.9 pts.        6.5  rebs.

C-Connor Vanover 7-3    So.      7.5                6.0

G-Jalen Tate            6-6   Sr.     10.4               3.9

G-Moses Moody      6-6   Fr.     17.6               5.9

G-Desi Sills              6-1   Jr.     11.3               3.9

AUBURN  (8-6, 2-4)

F-Jaylin Williams  6-8   So.   10.6  pts.  4.1n rebs.

F-JT Thor              6-10  Fr.      8.4           4.2

G-Sharife Cooper 6-1   Fr.     21.7           4.0

G-Allen Flanigan  6-6   So.    14.3            5.4

G-Jamal Johnson 6-4   Jr.     10.1            2.2

FAYETTEVILLE – You might think these Auburn Tigers that Arkansas beat, 97-85 Dec. 30 opening the SEC season at Auburn, Ala. would provide the ideal rematch tonic at Walton Arena tonight for a Razorbacks team that has lost four of its last five games and was routed its last two.

Think again.  Other than home court, and in these covid-19 times restricted attendance mostly minimizes home court advantage, momentum has the eye of the Tigers coming into tonight’s  8 o’clock SEC Network telecast.

Auburn, 8-6 overall, and Arkansas, 10-4 overall, share the same 2-4 SEC records but not the same recent SEC results.

Since Auburn freshman phenom point guard Sharife Cooper was declared first-time NCAA eligible three games ago,  Coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers nearly beat in a 94-90 overtime loss the SEC unbeaten Alabama Crimson Tide that last Saturday rolled  Arkansas, 90-59 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. followed by victories at Georgia and home against Kentucky.

Cooper impacted them all.  He tallied  26 points with nine assists against Alabama; scored 28 points with  12 assists against Georgia,  and scored 11 points and dealt  eight assists against Kentucky.

“You can change your whole program  with one or two players,” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said Monday night on his Eric Musselman Live radio show. “And he’s that good a player to step in and have that type of impact with no nonconference games to get his feet wet.”

Musselman explained why.

“If there is one word to describe Sharife Cooper it’s he’s electric,” Musselman said.  “He makes home run plays. In my time coaching college basketball he’s the best advance passer and finding players in transition. So it’s not just the scoring, it’s the assists.”

Cooper doesn’t score in threes, not 3-pointers anyway hitting but 1 of 16.  But he’ll score threes on and-ones, already  24 of 32 free throws in just three games.

“He’s so great getting in the lane and drawing free throws,” Musselman said.

And his assists help others hit threes on an Auburn team that, as would Alabama last Saturday, strafed Arkansas with 15 made threes in the SEC opener.

Allen Flanigan, Jamal Johnson and Devin Cambridge combined for 13 of 20 treys back on Dec. 30 vs. the Hogs.

“We’ve got to become a better defensive team in a short amount of time,” Musselman said.

Auburn’s best 3-point shooter going into that  Dec. 30

game, freshman Justin Powell, failed to hit a trey on Arkansas but averages 11.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

Powell has missed the last several games injured.

 Musselman, after allegedly questionable because of injuries Cameron Thomas for LSU and Alabama’s Herbert Jones and Jahvon Quinerly all played against Arkansas, presumes Powell playing too.

“With our luck we can be assured he’s going to be suiting up,” Musselman mused dryly.

Auburn often simultaneously employs two of three big men,

6-8 starters Jaylin Williams, not to be confused with Arkansas’ 6-10 freshman  forward Jaylin Williams, 6-10 JT Thor and  6-10 reserve Babatunde  Akingbola.

Having somebody near his own size to play against helped Arkansas 7-3 center Connor Vanover on Dec. 30.

Vanover posted by far his best SEC game, 17 points, five boards, a blocked shot and a steal, in his SEC debut vs. Auburn.

Freshman guard Moses Moody, 25, 18 and 28 points his last three games, has been Arkansas’ lone recently consistent offensive threat.

Musselman hopes junior guard Desi Sills, slumping since scoring 23 on Auburn, can relax and recapture his game that’s he pressed to pursue.

And he seeks graduate transfer point guard Jalen Tate minimizing his recent rash of first-half turnovers while graduate transfer forward Justin Smith, one tentative game back from ankle surgery after injured against Auburn, more regains his basketball legs and conditioning.

“I think our guys are ready to hit the reset button,” Musselman said.

To hit that reset button tonight, Musselman said, “We have to challenge the three,  keep Cooper out of the lane and we’ve got to rebound.”

ARKANSAS  (10-4, 2-4)

F-Justin Smith        6-7    Sr.     10.9 pts.        6.5  rebs.

C-Connor Vanover 7-3    So.      7.5                6.0

G-Jalen Tate            6-6   Sr.     10.4               3.9

G-Moses Moody      6-6   Fr.     17.6               5.9

G-Desi Sills              6-1   Jr.     11.3               3.9

AUBURN  (8-6, 2-4)

F-Jaylin Williams  6-8   So.   10.6  pts.  4.1n rebs.

F-JT Thor              6-10  Fr.      8.4           4.2

G-Sharife Cooper 6-1   Fr.     21.7           4.0

G-Allen Flanigan  6-6   So.    14.3            5.4

G-Jamal Johnson 6-4   Jr.     10.1            2.2

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