FAYETTEVILLE – For the Arkansas Razorbacks everything’s up to date in Kansas City.
They’ve gone about as far as they can go beating Cincinnati of the American Athletic Conference, 73-67 Tuesday night after beating Kansas State of the Big 12, 72-64 Monday night winning the Hall of Fame Classic at Kansas City’s T-Mobile Arena.
Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorback come home from Kansas City, Mo. to Fayetteville a 13th-ranked 5-0 heading into Sunday afternoon’s game at Walton Arena against the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania.
The Razorbacks stayed up to date in Kansas City Tuesday night almost replicating their victory there Monday night.
Via University of Miami graduate transfer Chris Lykes closed down K-State shooting 10 of 10 free throws down the stretch scoring 14 points. Tuesday on Cincinnati he scored 15 with 8 of 10 free throws including two with 21 seconds left putting Arkansas up, 70-67 and the dagger two advancing Arkansas up 72-67 with eight seconds left and Cincinnati, now 5-1, fouling Jaylin Williams at the last for one more Arkansas point.
The Razorbacks didn’t need that particular point but they sure needed 6-10 center/power forward’s game-leading 11 rebounds powering Arkansas, 46-32 over a Cincinnati Bearcats team strong on the boards. They also needed Williams’ dishing four steals and making two steals and taking more charges than American Express (“I have him down for taking five charges,” Musselman said postgame Tuesday) just like they needed his eight boards and charge taking against Kansas State.
Most of all they needed Hall of Fame Classic MVP Au’Diese Toney, the 6-6 grad transfer forward via the University of Pittsburgh. Toney tallied 13 points and nine boards against K-State. Against Cincinnati he scored 19 points, 6 of 9 from the field and 7 of 8 from the line, and again grabbing nine rebounds and shutting out Cincinnati star Jeremiah Davenport, a team-leading 19 points in the Bearcats, 71-51 first-round mauling of 14th-ranked Illinois Monday night but zip in 22 minutes against Arkansas.
“The right player got the MVP for the two games,” Musselman said of Toney simultaneously filling a very unstructured offensive role and very structured defensive role. “We did not call one single play for Au’Diese. He had 19 points, 9 rebounds and literally took their best player completely and utterly out of the game. He (Davenport) was a minus-15 when he was in and Au’Diese was assigned to him. He defended Davenport’s 3 ball, which we thought was really important.”
Davenport hit 4 of 8 treys on Illinois then 0 for 2 tried treys among his total 0 for 4 night against Toney.
“Coach told me that Davenport gets them going,,” Toney said. “ If he’s not going, their team’s not going. The whole night I was just thinking about how I’m going to shut this guy down and run him off the three-point line. I just did my job what coach wanted me to do.”
“Coach always says the ball will find you if you are doing good things,”Toney said. “The little things.”
Still the Bearcats of legendary toughness when Bob Huggins coached them during Arkansas’ Nolan Richardson era and then (present UCLA) coach Mick Cronin play tough under Coach Wes Miller. They battled and battled including David DeJulius’ game-leading 24 points.
“We played against two really, really good teams,” Musselman said. “I know Cincinnati prides itself on toughness and grit. “From a toughness standpoint, at least through this portion of the season, we’re as tough as any team in the country.”
They had to be tough to win shooting just 23 of 66 against Cincinnati. Customary Arkansas leading scoring guard JD Notae, playing despite illness, Musselman said, hit only 4 of 17 shots Tuesday and 4 of 17 Monday.
“We didn’t shoot very well at all in this tournament,” Musselman said. “We came away with two wins because of our defense, and because of our toughness and because of our rebounding.”
And free throw shooting, too said Toney, citing Lykes whom he had played against in the Pittsburgh vs. Miami games in the ACC.
“When I heard Chris was coming as well,” Toney recalled. “I said, “Oh, man! We got some good pieces that’s coming here.”
They all fit up to date in Kansas City.