FAYETTEVILLE – Before the Razorbacks could substitute beating Southern University for their covid-19 testing cancelled midweek game with Tulsa, Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman mused about playing Saturday night scheduled University of Central Arkansas Bears on Friday night, too.
Just this once looked more than enough for the Razorbacks into 9:50 of Saturday night’s second half at Walton Arena.
Coach Anthony Boone’s Bears of the Southland Conference came running from Conway scoring the game’s first six points and leading as much as 10 during the first half that Arkansas finally led, 41-35.
And the underdog Bears ran hard into the second half cutting a 14-point deficit to six (64-58) at 9:50 before running out of gas as the Razorbacks ran away 100-75.
Arkansas of the SEC ups to 6-0 while the Bears fall to 0-4.
“I thought Central Arkansas did a phenomenal job at the beginning of the game playing at their pace, playing at their tempo,” Musselman said. “We did not have many shots fall early in that first 10-minute segment. I certainly thought as the game progressed we got better and better towards the end of the game.”
Was he concerned during the first half outset?
“We’ve had such great starts,” Musselman said. “But we know
it’s a 40-minute game. You can’t overreact. I think our players understand that. This was the first time we didn’t score off the jump ball. We turned it over on the very first play. But having said that, we only had eight turnovers in a game in where we scored 100 points and had 26 assists. I’m proud of how we took care of the ball other than just those first five or six minutes of the game. So a lot of really good things for sure tonight.”
He especially liked that as the Bears ran at them the Razorbacks ran right back and then some.
“We knew Central Arkansas ran the ball and so for us it was important for us to run with them,” Musselman said. “We didn’t want to slow the tempo down at all.”
Arkansas point guards Jalen Tate, a 17-points/11 assists double-double, and off the bench JD Notae, a game-leading 23 points, including 4 of 10 treys, with six assists, ran Arkansas’ show.
Transfers Tate, a grad transfer via Northern Kentucky University, and Notae, redshirted last season transferring as a junior from the University of Jacksonville, both surpassed 1,000 career points during Saturday’s game.
“I think a thousand points is a great mark for any college basketball player from a scoring standpoint,” Musselman said. “We just talked about it in the locker room with the guys and had a little fun celebrating. JD and Jalen, both guys can score the ball, but also are willing distributors as well.”
Tate is “banged up,” Musselman said with an ankle injury and then Saturday night “he did something to his hand.”
Tate said from his experience at Northern Kentucky wishing his alma mater could play the Kentucky Wildcats that he’d better ignore his ailments and play hard. He knew the Bears surely would.
“When I was back at NKU, we would have killed for the chance to play Kentucky,” Tate said. “When an in-state rival like UCA plays us, you know they are going to give us their best shot the entire game. They have guys on that side that probably think they should have had the chance to play here. It is pretty natural for a team like that to come in here and play like they did. All credit to them.”
Combo starting guard Desi Sills scored 17 with four assists while starting swingman Moses Moody scored 15, and forward Justin Smith scored 12 with four rebounds and blocked two shots.
Guards Rylan Bergersen and DeAndre Jones led UCA with 13 points each while SK Shuttu of Rogers scored 11 UCA points and shot 4 for 4 from the field.
Even with 7-3 center Connor Vanover, also blocking two of Arkansas’ eight shot blocks, and grabbing 10 rebounds while 6-6 Moody corralled seven, UCA outrebounded Arkansas, 37-35 paced by Jared Chatham’s double-double 10 boards and 10 points.
“Connor’s nine defensive boards and Moses’ seven defensive boards , we need those guys to rebound for us and they did good job,” Musselman said. “Some of the other guys we have to get to contribute a little bit more on the defensive end. Our rebounding certainly has to get better than it was tonight.”
But they do start this week of final exams before their Dec. 20 game with Oral Roberts University here believing they did all right this Saturday night.
“I thought it (having to come back from trailing early) was good for us,” Musselman said. “We still led for 27 minutes. We won the game by 25 points. I think we played pretty well. We would like to have gotten off to a better start, but having said that, we are sitting here with a 25-point win, and we scored 100 points.”