FAYETTEVILLE – Eric Musselman has little cause to complain about his Razorbacks’ 2-0 start but he does note their next opponent does best vs. what the Hogs recently did worst.
Arkansas hosts the University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks, 1-2, at 8 tonight at Walton Arena televised on the SEC Network.
Although compiling a 69-54 victory last Saturday over the reigning Conference USA champion North Texas Mean Green, Musselman took exception to Arkansas committing 16 turnovers. He stresses that the Mavericks of the Sun Belt Conference, playing three quality opponents losing, 75-68 and 76-71 to Oklahoma State and Louisiana Tech and defeating Northwestern State, 80-71, have only committed 27 turnovers in three games while forcing 47 from their foes.
“The thing with Arlington is they’re a high steal team,” Musselman said. “They’re a team that creates turnovers. They do a really good job taking care of the basketball. I think they’ve doubled up their three opponents when you look at the turnover margin.”
So far Arkansas has played the quick shooting but inept Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils, routed 142-62 by the Razorbacks and routed 116-62 by North Texas, and North Texas which dotes on a methodical pace.
Coach Chris Ogden’s Mavericks play a far more disciplined offense than Mississippi Valley but at “much, much faster pace,” Musselman said than North Texas.
“They get out and score it in transition,” Musselman said. “They rely on changing defenses to try to create steals. So we’re going to have to be alert for any changing defenses. With our zone package offensively, as well as our man package, I think we have enough different looks that we can give them offensively.”
The Mavericks, otherwise starting 6-7 forwards Chris Mwamba and
Fredelin De La Cruz, rely on guards Shahada Wells, 18.0 scoring average, David Azore, 14.7 and Nicolas Elame, 10.3 for their principal offense.
Forward Jordan Phillips, formerly a Razorbacks freshman under former Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson before transferring to UTA, averages 19.7 minutes as the Mavericks’ sixth man.
After last Saturday defensively shutting down guard Javion Hamlet, last season’s Conference USA Player of the Year for the North Texas Mean Green, Arkansas 6-6 point guard Jalen Tate seems most apt to open tonight guarding Wells.
Tate and Connor Vanover, Arkansas’ 7-3 center looming large against the Mavericks starting nobody taller than 6-7 though 6-11 Lazaro Rojas and 6-10 Grayson Carter each have played a bit off the UTA bench, set the defensive tempo against North Texas.
Vanover blocked six shots and grabbed 16 rebounds. Musselman didn’t need him scoring (six points) against North Texas but against Mississippi Valley Vanover scored a game-high 23 while hitting 4 of 5 treys.
Junior forward Vance Jackson, a big game starting against Mississippi Valley with 15 points, including 4 of 6 treys, and seven boards, only played 8:16 off the bench against North Texas without scoring or rebounding.
Musselman on Monday explained Jackson’s contrasts.
“Vance missed the practice the day before (the North Texas game),” Musselman said. “He was just feeling under the weather a little bit. So we made the change in the starting lineup also based on matchups. We felt like we wanted to speed the game up and we wanted to have a rim protector (Vanover) back there.Sometimes a player doesn’t do anything wrong, it’s just the game plan might dictate. We know Vance is going to provide perimeter shooting and I thought he had a great first game.”
Junior 2-year letterman starting guard Desi Sills leads Arkansas scoring with a 16.5 average.
Starting graduate transfer forward Justin Smith, 13 and 18 points, and sixth-man junior guard JD Notae, 13 and 16 points, many during Arkansas’ game-breaking runs, have scored consistently.
Arkansas starting swingman Moses Moody, 13.5 scoring average, leads the Hogs at the free throw line, 15 of 16.
F-Justin Smith 6-7 Sr. 15.5 pts. 5.0 rebs.
C-Connor Vanover 7-3 So. 15.5 12.0
G-Jalen Tate 6-6 Sr. 7.0 4.5
G-Desi Sills 6-1 Jr. 16.5 2.5
G-Moses Moody 6-6 Fr. 13.5 2.5
F-Patrick Mwamba 6-7 So. 5.3 pts. 5.3 rebs.
F-Fredelin De La Cruz 6-7 Jr. 7.3 6.7
G-Shahada Wells 6-0 Jr. 18.0 5.0
G-Nicolas Elame 6-3 So. 10.3 5.7
G-David Azore 6-4 Jr. 14.7 6.7