Hogs Prepare for Vanderbilt

Razorback senior guard JD Notae (#1) from Covington, GA shoots and makes a free throw against Charlotte  
at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR.

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – It seems that JD Notae definitely will attend and stands a chance to play for the Razorbacks in tonight’s SEC Network televised SEC game against the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Arkansas, 10-3 overall/0-1 in the SEC after losing last week at Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt, 8-4 and playing its SEC opener, tip off at 7:30 tonight at the Razorbacks’ Walton Arena.

Senior guard Notae, second in SEC scoring by just a fraction (18.0 to 18.1 behind Vanderbilt guard Scotty Pippen Jr., and seldom-used Razorbacks freshman guard Chance Moore were left home with undisclosed illnesses in Fayetteville when the Razorbacks lost, 81-68 last Wednesday to Mississippi State’s Bulldogs in Starkville, Miss.

Also reserve power forward Kamani Johnson, coming off his best game in Arkansas’ December nonconference finale victory over Elon University, was left home on disciplinary suspension when the Razorbacks sojourned to Starkville.

Notae and Moore had a limited practice Saturday after doing some shooting Friday.

“JD has practiced a little bit,” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said Monday afternoon. “Probably a game-time decision, just based on his wind and not being able to fully practice, so I would say see how shoot around goes tomorrow and see how he’s feeling, as well.”

Could he foresee using Notae maybe on a limited basis tonight?

“I think if he’s cleared, he’s going to be cleared,” Musselman said. “I don’t think that it’ll be a restriction type. I think it’ll just be, hey, has he gotten enough reps where our trainer feels comfortable and JD feels comfortable? I think if that’s the case, he’ll play. If they feel that he’s not, then he just won’t play.”

Certainly in the throes of losing 3 of their last 4, the last one being the first that Notae missed, Musselman has fingers crossed his team leader both in scoring and steals  (32 doubling second best thief Stanley Umude’s 16, can play.

“I think heading into the last game he was the leading scorer in the SEC,” Musselman said.  “You take any leading scorer in any league off the roster for a game, on a road game, it’s not going to be easy for anybody across the country probably.”

What’s Johnson’s status?

“Kamani could be back with us,” Musselman said. “He’s on a day-by-day situation. I guess I’ll leave it at that.”

Johnson also rejoined practice over the weekend.

The Razorbacks either need Notae full bore or several adeptly picking up his slack.  Because even when held under his average, Pippen still scores plenty like his 15 when Arkansas vanquished Vandy, 92-71 last season at the Commodores’ Memorial Gym in Nashville.

“Last year I think we held him to 14 or 15 points and I think he was the leading scorer in the SEC,” Arkansas sophomore guard Devo Davis said. “So we held him under his average and I think did a good job on him last year but I think he’s a really great player. I think he’ll have a great career after he leaves Vandy.  He knows spacing, and he knows how to create for himself. Not everyone can do that, and I think he’s really good at that. He’ll give us a lot of pump fakes and things, just to get his defenders in the air. He knows how to draw fouls and things like that, which is what makes a great scorer.”

Musselman said Davis won’t be the Lone Ranger defending against Pippen.

“I’m sure we’ll do it by committee where several different guys will be on him,” Musselman said.  “I think most importantly when you guard a great offensive player it’s how do the other four players position themselves to be able to give help as well.”

The Commodores may be a little rusty.  They last played on Dec.22 and  Dec. 23 beating Hawaii and  Brigham Young at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu before the tournament’s Vanderbilt vs. Stanford championship game was cancelled Christmas Day because of Stanford’s covid issues.

However with victories over Pittsburgh and Brigham Young among others, the Commodores show they aren’t just Pippen.

Against Brigham Young,  Vandy forward Jordan Wright, averaging 12.6 points, scored 13.  Vandy forward Myles Stute scored 14  while 6-10 center Quentin Millora-Brown grabbed 10 rebounds.

“This is a really good Vanderbilt team that plays hard and understands their roles,” Musselman said. “They have a shooter at the power forward spot that stretches the floor out. Their center plays very, very hard. He looks like he enjoys his role being a screen setter and a roller and a guy that pounds the offensive glass. It’s a team that I think is a really good basketball team.”

That also described Arkansas from November until late in December when the then ranked Hogs got waxed, 88-66 by Oklahoma in Tulsa, upset, 89-81 by Hofstra at Simmons Bank Arena in North Little Rock, and then were second-half dominated by Mississippi State in Starkville.

Rebounding, a Razorbacks  strength in their 9-0 start, slumped significantly against Oklahoma, Hofstra and Mississippi State.

It has been significantly addressed, Davis, the sophomore guard doom Jacksonville said. “We’ve been putting that as a big emphasis in practice after the Mississippi State game and looking to do in the upcoming game tomorrow,” Davis said. “We have to box out and make sure the size that Vandy has on the offensive boards  to keep them off the lane.”

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