FAYETTEVILLE – Fueled by a 28-0 run during their 61-30 first half, the Arkansas Razorbacks opened their basketball season demolishing the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils, 142-62 Wednesday night at Walton Area.
It marked Arkansas’ second highest scoring game ever behind only Nolan Richardson’s 1989-90 Razorbacks annihilating US International 166-101.
Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks hit 7 of their 11 first-half threes and finished 12 of 19 on first half treys to MVSU’s 8 of 22.
On even wider first-half disparities, the Razorbacks outscored MVSU, 17-0 on first-half turnovers, 27-8 on bench points and 20-4 on first half points in the paint while employing all 11 scholarship players before the half’s midway point.
Obviously outmanned, second-year MVSU Coach Lindsey Hunter returned only his son, sophomore star Caleb Hunter from last season’s 3-27 Delta Devils of the SWAC (Southwest Athletic Conference) but his fast shooting off just a pass or two newcomers fared no better against Musselman’s Razorbacks debuting nine scholarship players not active with Arkansas last season returning only junior guard Desi Sills and junior forward Ethan Henderson on scholarship.
The Razorbacks should face for more formidable opposition hosting the defending Conference USA champion University of North Texas Mean Green at 5 p.m. Saturday at Walton Arena.
The Mean Green opens its season Thursday night in Denton, Texas hosting the now decidedly 0-1 Delta Devils.
At 7-3 and 6-9, activated sophomore center Connor Vanover, redshirted last season while transferring from the University of California, and graduate transfer Vance Jackson via the University of New Mexico not only provided height last season’s Razorbacks lacked but fueled much of the first-half 3-point shooting barrage.
Jackson hit 4 of 5 first-half treys while Vanover connected 3 of 3 and also blocked two first-half shots.
“Of the starters Vance did a really great job at the 3-point line,” Musselman said. “ Obviously having played against Vance (in the Mountain West when Musselman coached Nevada and Jackson played for New Mexico) and seeing him every in practice we know he’s one of the nation’s best 3-point shooters. He gets his feet set and he gets his rhythm which he did after that first shot we know he’s lethal from three. And then when Connor came in he was phenomenal. Man, that’s what he does.”
For the game, Vanover led seven men in double figures scoring attack tallying a game 23 points while grabbing eight boards and blocking two shots.
Sills scored 19. Freshman guard Moses Moody scored 16. Jackson and freshman guard KK Robinson of Bryant scored 15 each. Junior guard JD Notae scored 13 with a game-leading seven assists and graduate transfer guard Jalen Tate scored.
Freshman 6-10 forward Jaylin Williams of Fort Smith Northside just missed a double-double debut scoring nine points with a game-leading 10 rebounds.
Under former NBA 17-year player Lindsey Hunter, the Delta Devils style is to play fast and shoot faster.
That style only fed into the mismatch as the Razorbacks fired away off MVSU misses to lead 93-41 after the second half’s first seven minutes.
“I thought in the second half we played with better pace,” Musselman said.
Arkansas attained 100 points at 11:36 on a Vanover trey.
Musselman lauded the Razorbacks for “sharing the ball,” 26 assists, and committing but three turnovers in the final 35 minutes settling in after “a jittery” start turning it over four times in the first five minutes.
And he lauded the defense on Caleb Hunter, averaging 15.7 last season for MVSU that he ended with two 30-point games but only tallied 10 Wednesday night on 3 of 9.
Terry Collins needed to hit 6 of 18 to lead MVSU with 15 points against Arkansas.
Even winning by 80, Musselman found fault with Arkansas’ 3-point shooting defense as the Delta Devils hit 13 of 39 treys.
“Really disappointed in our inability to guard the 3-point shot,” Musselman said. “That’s been a problem since we’ve gotten together with the new group. Obviously last year that was a biggest strength. We’re teaching it the same way but obviously we’re not guarding it. That will be a point of emphasis between now and Saturday when we play.”