FAYETTEVILLE – Rested since beating Kansas State and Cincinnati back to back last Monday and Tuesday to win the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Coach Eric Musselman’s 13th-ranked, 5-0 Razorbacks start Sunday a busy basketball week back home at Walton Arena.
At 3 p.m. Sunday televised by the SEC Network the Razorbacks play the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania Quakers followed by instate games Wednesday night hosting the University of Central Arkansas Bears and a Dec. 4 Saturday afternoon hosting the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans.
In the immediate aftermath of beating Cincinnati Tuesday night, Musselman already had included practicing for Penn as part of the Hogs’ Thanksgiving Day plans.
“Obviously we need a little bit of rest, there’s no doubt about that, because it’s hard to play back-to-back games,” Musselman said Tuesday night in Kansas City. “We’ll be able to regroup and get back late, late, late tonight and then get back at it on, I guess, Thanksgiving.”
Against 3-5 Penn it seems the Hogs are apt to see a team not up to Kansas State and Cincinnati standards.
One of Penn’s three wins, 73-68 over Bucknell, should jar memories of longtime Razorbacks fans.
Bucknell beat former Arkansas Coach Stan Heath’s Razorbacks, 59-55 in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament at Dallas.
Penn’s other victories are over Lafayette and Old Dominion.
A double-overtime defeat vs. Utah State and 70-62 loss to Davidson comprise the closest contested of Penn’s losses that which include vs. Florida State, George Mason University and Towson.
Guards Jordan Dingle, 19.6 points per game, and Jonah Charles, 11.3, lead the Quakers scoring.
Nick Spinoso, a freshman 6-9 center, and Jelani Williams, a 6-5 guard, lead Penn’s rebounding averaging 4.9 and 4.5.
With four years head coaching Boston College in between, Penn Coach Steve Donahue is the only coach winning Ivy League titles at two different schools, Cornell from 2008-2010, and Penn in 2018.
The Razorbacks hope to rediscover their shooting touch, about the only facet they didn’t execute well against then undefeated K-State and Cincinnati of the Big 12 and American Athletic Conference.
“We didn’t shoot the very well at all in this tournament,” Musselman said during Tuesday’s postgame in Kansas City. “And we came away with two wins because of our defense, and because of our toughness and because of our rebounding. From a toughness standpoint, at least through this portion of the season, we’re as tough as any team in the country.”
Au’Diese Toney, Arkansas’ 6-6 graduate transfer forward via the University of Pittsburgh, played toughest of all. Named the Hall of Fame Classic MVP after tallying 13 points and nine rebounds against Kansas State, 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, again grabbing nine rebounds and defensively held to zero points Jeremiah Davenport, the star with a team-leading 19 points in Cincinnati’s stunning, 91-71 trouncing of 14th-ranked Illinois.
“The right player got the MVP for the two games,” Musselman said Tuesday night in Kansas City.
Musselman said Toney has quickly adapted to the role cast for him at Arkansas that differed from what he was most asked to do at Pittsburgh.
“I think our style of play is much, much different than what he’s used to playing,” Musselman said.
Pittsburgh, Toney said, played him more as a ball-handling guard, the roles Arkansas filled by Devo Davis, JD Notae and Chris Lykes.
That frees Toney to be a rebounder and inside garbage man offensively picking his spots to fit rather than asked to fit a pattern.
“It’s different from Pitt because I was active with the ball,” Toney said. “Now, I don’t have to be as active with the ball because we have JD and Chris to handle the ball. Just finding the spots. That’s all it is, just finding your spots and opportunities when you get it.”
Toney seizes those opportunities, Musselman said, without any plays specifically called for him.
“Scoring will come to you when they find you,” Toney said. “Coach always says the ball will find you if you are doing good things, the little things.”
Coach Mike Neighbors’ 4-1 Razorbacks women’s basketball team host Sam Houston State at 2 p.m. Saturday at Walton Arena and complete a Sunday doubleheader following the men’s game hosting Belmont University at 7 p.m