FAYETTEVILLE – Again Arkansas’ regrouping Razorbacks regroup against an opponent also regrouping.
Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks, 9-2 overall, 1-2 in the SEC, clash with Coach Tom Crean’s Georgia Bulldogs, 7-2, 0-2, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on the SEC Network at Walton Arena.
Breezing 8-0 during its nonconference schedule and opening impressively in the SEC winning at Auburn, Arkansas lost its next two SEC rivals Missouri last Saturday at Walton Arena in Fayetteville and at last Wednesday at Tennessee.
Crean’s Bulldogs, 7-0 nonconference including triumphing over traditionally formidable Cincinnati, opened their SEC season losing, 83-73 at home to the Mississippi State Bulldogs and last Wednesday lost a 94-92 overtime heartbreaker at LSU.
Musselman minced no words how abysmally the Hogs played in their 81-68 loss at Walton that they trailed by 18 during the second half and were outrebounded, 51-36 and made but 19 of 71 shots.
While despising losing the game and committing 20 turnovers, and Tennessee shooting 20 of 26 free throws to Arkansas’ 8 of 10, Musselman took heart that at nationally No. 9 Tennessee his Razorbacks outrebounded UT and shot 29 of 55 from the field.
Arkansas came within a couple of just rimmed out threes of beating or perhaps taking Tennessee to overtime before forced to foul late in a 79-74 loss.
“I think we took a step forward,” Musselman said. “Razorback fans don’t want to hear that – obviously we lost the game. A shot didn’t go down and we ended up in the lost column. We’ve just got to keep getting better.”
He knows they must improve because Georgia improves.
“They just keep coming at you in the league, really good teams,” Musselman said. “Georgia in my opinion is one of the most underrated teams. Coach Crean has done an incredible job with this team. They have an identity. They play really fast. They do a great job offensive rebounding.”
Crean also abhors declaring moral victories but knows his Bulldogs take positives from Baton Rouge even without the W.
“We are learning and understanding that we can come out here and compete for our first road game,” Crean said. “We can play hard. We can play tough. We can get our speed going. We can make big plays, but we can also make mistakes and we have to overcome those.”
The Bulldogs don’t have a superstar, 2019-2020 Georgia freshman phenom and current Minnesota Timberwolve Anthony Edwards, the first player chosen in the 2020 NBA draft.
But they do present among college basketball’s more balanced attacks.
Georgia starting guards Sahvir Wheeler, Tye Fagan and Kier and forwards Toumani Camara and P.J. Horne average from Camara’s 14.3 points to Fagan and Horne averaging 10.6 with Wheeler, 13.7 and Kier, 12.6 in between.
Musselman liked what he saw from via Fort Smith Northside freshman forward Jaylin Williams’ debut start for injured graduate transfer forward Justin Smith.
Smith is about to miss his third game rehabbing a surgically repaired (but not season ending) injured ankle.
Musselman cited Smith’s energy and also lauded Notae and graduate transfer forward Vance Jackson (14 points and nine rebounds) off the bench.
“And there will be another change in the starting line up when we get ready for Georgia,” Musselman said.
Junior 2-year letterman mainstay guard Desi Sills, a game-leading 23 points plus six rebounds and only two turnovers in 35 minutes against Auburn, shot 1 for 10 against Missouri and shot 0 for 1 and committed three turnovers in 18 minutes at Tennessee.
“Desi’s had some really hot streaks and some cold streaks in the year and a half I’ve been here,” Musselman said. “He’s struggled the last two games, for sure.”
Last season Sills excelled even more off the bench than starting.
Guards Sills, Tate and Moses Moody have started all 11 Arkansas games so far while Vanover has started 10.
Freshman reserve guard Khalen “KK” Robinson, formerly a junior at Bryant, was unavailable the second half against Tennessee because of a foot injury. Robinson was scheduled Friday for a MRI.
ARKANSAS (9-2, 1-2)
F-Jaylin Williams 6-10 Fr. 3.4 pts. 3.6 rebs.
F-Vance Jackson 6-10 Sr. 5.3 3.2
C-Connor Vanover 7-3 So. 9.3 7.3
G-Jalen Tate 6-6 Sr. 10.4 4.2
G-Moses Moody 6-6 Fr. 15.9 5.7
GEORGIA (7-2, 0-2)
F-P.J. Horne 6-6 Sr. 10.6 pts. 4.2 rebs.
F-Toumani Camara 6-8 So. 14.3 8.9
G-Sahvir Wheeler 5-10 So. 13.7 3.8
G-Justin Kier 6-4 Sr. 12.6 4.8
G-Tye Fagan 6-3 Jr. 10.6 5.9