Hogs Beat Mizzou

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – The SEC’s No. 1 sixth man became THE MAN for Arkansas leading the second-seeded Razorbacks, 70-64 past the Missouri Tigers in Friday night’s SEC Tournament quarterfinals at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

JD Notae, the junior transfer guard via Jacksonville University voted SEC Sixth Man of the Year by SEC coaches, bounded off the bench rallying the Razorbacks off a sluggish start through a winning finish scoring a game-leading 27 points.

Arkansas, 22-5, advances to Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. ESPN televised semifinal vs. LSU the 76-73 Friday’s late night quarterfinals winner over Ole Miss, following the noon semifinal between SEC champion Alabama and fourth-seeded Tennessee.

Saturday’s winners play Sunday’s noon championship game on ESPN then await Sunday afternoon’s NCAA Tournament selection show which also include Missouri, done for now at 16-9.

Notae scored 16 during the first half rallying the Razorbacks from down 23-13 to up 29-23 before Mizzou’s 33-32 intermission lead. Among his 11 second-half points Notae, with Arkansas clinging to a 2-point lead and the shot clock nearly expired, out of a loose ball scramble fired home a bucket for 65-60 lead at 1:16. He then blocked a Mizzou shot at 1:07 as the Tigers thereafter never closed closer than four points down.

“Huge, huge basket for us without question,” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said. “But that’s what he is. He’s a guy that makes these shots that you sit there and say, ‘No, no, no, no, no … Oh, good shot!”

Notae’s description?

“I was driving left,” Notae said. “And the dude who was in the corner, his man kind of hit (the ball) and it was kind of bobbling. I just felt it at my feet and I knew the shot clock was running down, so I just tried to get it on the goal.”

Additionally, combo guard Notae had to operate point guard for half the game with starting point guard Jalen Tate mired in early foul trouble and helped defense Mizzou star guard Xavier Pinson, 14 points Friday after scoring 23 points both regular season home and home games that Arkansas and Mizzou split with the visiting team prevailing in Fayetteville and Columbia, Mo.

“Pinson killed us both games,” Notae said. “So I just tried to stay in front of him.”

Notae did all that even while having to make a late first-half rush to the locker room hastily accompanied by a bucket-wielding staffer.

“I feel a lot better,” Notae said. “I feel like I played all right. I had a few too many turnovers (five). But we got the win. That’s all I really care about.”

From what he “felt a lot better” from was more than a mite queasy.

“He threw up at one point and then he did it again at halftime,” Musselman said. “We didn’t know if he was going to come out and play the second half. He played phenomenal. We turned the ball over way too much tonight (20 turnovers while Mizzou committed 21). But JD – he carried us.”

With star guard Moses Moody struggling offensively, eight rebounds but 12.6 points under his scoring tallying just five as Mizzou “did a phenomenal job on Moses,” Musselman said. the Hogs needed big offensive nights from Notae, forward Justin Smith, 16 points and freshman guard Davonte “Devo” Davis, 11 points.

They also needed big defense against Mizzou big man Jeremiah Tilmon, 25 points and 13 rebounds when Mizzou beat Arkansas, 81-68 on Jan. 2 in Fayetteville with Justin Smith out injured, and absent because of a funeral when Smith starred and the Hogs won in Columbia.

6-10 center Tilmon, nine first half points Friday, had his way early against starting center Connor Vanover and substitute Vance Jackson but got thwarted the remainder of the half by rarely used 6-8 junior Ethan Henderson. Henderson, two dunks and a shot block pressed into service with backup center Jaylin Williams still in covid protocol, helped get Tilmon into first half three fouls trouble.

Henderson picked up his own third foul at the second half’s outset.

So 6-7 Smith became Arkansas’ tallest on the floor using his quickness to foul out both Tilmon, just those nine first-half points and zero rebounds, and Mitchell Smith, Mizzou’s 6-10 senior from Van Buren.

“We went with Justin Smith a lot at the 5-spot,” Musselman said. “I thought Ethan played his minutes really well. We knew that we were probably going to have to go small during stretches, and I thought our small lineup was phenomenal.”

Arkansas outrebounded Coach Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers, 36-31.

Both teams took more charges than American Express with 45 fouls called.

“ I think Coach Martin and I could probably put on a clinic for any high school coaches on taking charges,” Musselman said. “Because that’s got to be a SEC record for both teams taking charges. I think it’s two fundamentally sound defensive teams that did a good job sliding in front of the ball and maybe a little bit of anxiousness by the offensive player trying to take people off the bounce.”

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