FAYETTEVILLE – In an Arkansas vs. South Dakota game filled with renowned 3-point shooters, Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt outscored them all without trying a trey.
On medium jumpers, inside buckets, points off steals and some free throws graduate transfer Whitt hit 11 of 14 shots and scored an Arkansas career high 24 points leading the undefeated 5-0 Razorbacks, 77-56 over the now no longer undefeated 5-1 University of South Dakota Coyotes of the Summit League Friday night at Walton Arena.
“For all those analytic guys who think the mid-range game has gone out of basketball, welcome to Jimmy Whitt’s world.” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said.
The more Whitt scored the more Arkansas’t top guns told him to fire away.
“It was just one of those games where I had the hot hand and my teammates were encouraging me to shoot,” Whitt said. I’m going to get to where I’m most comfortable and that’s that mid-range area. I started off a little hot and then my teammates just telling me, ‘If you can shoot it every time, shoot it. It’s one of those nights for you.”
USD came into Walton as the nation’s leading 3-point team while Arkansas sports renowned 3-point marksmen Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones.
But Arkansas’ perimeter defense stifled USD’s 3-point game to 3 of 12.
“Obviously coming into the game 3-point defense was really going to be the name of the game,” Musselman said. “I thought our guys stepped up to the challenge of defending the 3-point line. Holding South Dakota to three threes is not easy. You look at the box scores of their first five games, they did an incredible job of knocking down threes prior to tonight.”
What was done to shut down the Coyotes’ sprees of threes?
“We changed our pick and roll defense and we switched and went to an immediate deny which we have not done here in the first four games,” Musselman said.
Whitt said “The theme of the game was to be able to contain the 3-point line tonight. I felt like we did that.”
Meanwhile with Joe and Jones off their 3-point game, a combined 1 for 8 with Arkansas 4 of 20 as a 3-point team, all the Hogs pitched in by doing other things. Musselman played eight Razorbacks and all scored with Jalen Harris, Jeantal Cylla and Reggie Chaney scoring eight, seven and six points off the bench.
“I thought our bench really played well,” Musselman said. “Jalen Harris’ minutes were really good. He continues to shoot free throws well going 4 for 4 tonight. We have not gotten a ton of scoring off the bench but I think we had 21 bench points tonight. Our guys that checked in did a really good job for us.”
Whitt not only scored the most but seemed to score when it most counted, twice tallying in the second half after USD reduced what had been a 19-point deficit to 10.
Jones though 0 for 2 on treys scored 14 and tied with Whitt for a team-leading seven rebounds.
Tyler Hagedorn, 15 points but 0 for 2 on treys after entering the game 15 of 19 on threes, and Stanley Umude, 13 points, led South Dakota.
Whitt scored the first four points of the first half that Arkansas never trailed en route to leading 39-24 at intermission.
Umude’s three for down 4-3 was as close at the Coyotes would get.
Desi Sills breaking his 0 for 16 3-point skid with a trey followed by an Adrio Bailey steal and dunk had the crowd roaring and USD coach Todd Lee calling timeout down 12-5 at 15:38.
Arkansas peaked its first half lead 30-11 on two Jalen Harris free throws at 7:05.
Cylla’s three stopped at 6-0 a Coyotes run. Whitt’s old fashioned and-one 3-point play again fended off the Coyotes to down 36-21 after they cut it to 12.
USD only could launch six first-half threes against Arkansas and hit but one.
Arkansas didn’t shoot a great 3-point first-half percentage, 4 of 14, but still outscored 12-3 USD at intermission on what has been the Coyotes’ forte while outrebounding USD, 22-17 in the first half.
Musselman employed eight Hogs in the first half. All contributed at least two points and one rebound. Whitt’s 10 led Arkansas’ first-half scoring while Umude’s 11 points paced USD’s first half.
Though in foul trouble as was starting forward Bailey, 6-8 forward Chaney played big off the Arkansas bench in both halves and blocked three shots.
The Razorbacks play their first road game Monday night visiting the Georgia Tech Bulldogs 2-1, of the ACC in Atlanta.
Photos courtesy of Craven Whitlow
CW3, Sports Action