By Otis Kirk Special to the Nate Allen Sports Service
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas held its an annual Red-White basketball game tonight before 2,023 students in Bud Walton Arena though the Red squad made it a blowout with a 103-67 victory.
The Red team blew it open in the second half after only leading by 10, 41-31, at halftime. They outscored the White team 31-22 in the third quarter and then finished it off with a 31-14 difference in the final eight minutes.
The Red’s Justin Smith finished with 22 points. He was 9-of-11 from the field including perfect on three treys and hit one free throw in two attempts. He also added three rebounds and six assists. While some players switched teams at halftime, Smith spent the entire night with the Red team. He talked about the blowout win and if that surprised him.
“Yeah I was a little bit surprised, but I know I can only speak for the Red team,” Smith said. “We wanted to go out there and really play hard. Try to simulate a real game. Just kinda get a little practice run going here. That’s just kinda how the score coming out. But I think both teams played hard, but there’s some things both sides need to work on.”
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman wasn’t as diplomatic about the one-sided margin.
“Really disappointed with White’s defense,” Musselman said. “I don’t know if I’ve been a part of an instrasquad scrimmage where a team gives us a 103 points in a 36-minute game. … 67 to 103, I mean the numbers on White are pretty much meaningless if you lose the game by that much.”
The Red team shot 57 percent from the field and 47 from behind the three-point line. One stat that Musselman has to like is the two teams combined to hit 21 of 23 free throw attempts including a perfect 12-of-12 by the Whites.
One player who did switch sides at intermission was JD Notae. He put together a great game, but particularly final 16 minutes. Notae scored 24 points in the second half hitting 8-of-12 from the field including 7-of-11 from behind the three-point line. He hit his only free throw and added five assists. He also scored six points and added three rebounds in the first half for the White squad. Smith liked that trade at halftime.
“Oh yeah for sure,” Smith said. “Everybody saw the kind of second half he had. I’m glad it was on our team instead of against us. But yeah he brings a lot to the table. He’s a dynamic scorer and he can do a lot of things for us.”
Musselman also commented on Notae’s performance particularly in the second half.
“I thought JD offensively was really good in that second half with scoring 24 points in 16 minutes,” Musselman said. “The best thing about JD in the second half was that he had five assists.
“And then really good three-point shooting with both teams, 23 of 5 from three. But on the flip side, and it’s because we’re playing ourselves, we led the nation in defending the three last year and with so many new guys, they have not picked up the importance of defending the three with urgency. So that’s going to get cleaned up.”
With Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe waiting to hear their names called in Wednesday’s NBA Draft, Musselman was asked if Notae can be someone who may help replace that pair’s scoring?
“Well I think for sure JD is a guy that can score in bunches,” Musselman said. “I think you saw that. I thought he started the game off way too impatient, 1 of 5 from the field, bad shot selection. Then I think as the flow of the game and after we told him, ‘Hey, let the game come to you, play some defense.’ He’s got to get better defensively. He’s got to play with more of a sense of urgency at all times. But yeah, certainly JD is a guy that can go get his own shot whenever he wants. He’s got a really good step-back three. He’s really good going to the basket and drawing free throws. He might be a guy that maybe comes off the bench, I don’t know, and supplies his points that way. We’re still trying to figure that out.”
Notae redshirted last season after transferring to Arkansas. He talked about playing in a game and the feeling to get back onto the court.
““It was good, a good crowd,” Notae said. “I haven’t played in like a year so I was nervous a little bit. I kind of forced it a lot in the first half. The second half, I kind of let it come to me.”
Notae talked about his three-point shooting and if that’s what he feels is his strength?
“Just being able to shoot allowed me to do whatever I wanted to with the defense because they have to come out farther,” Notae said. “It is just part of my game that I worked on in this off-season to increase my range. I can shoot deeper 3s and make them.”
Smith wasn’t known for his three-point shooting at Indiana so he was pleased to hit all three tonight. He said the improvement at Arkansas isn’t an accident.
“It felt good,” Smith said. “It’s a big confidence booster. I mean when I got there that’s one of the things I knew I needed to work on and the coaching staff worked with me. We put a lot of work in this summer into fall and it’s good to see it paying off. I’ve got to do it a little more consistently for sure.”
True freshman Moses Moody had a solid game scoring 21 points and pulling down six rebounds and dishing out four assists for the Red team. Smith liked what he saw from Moody.
“Playing with Moses is a lot of fun,” Smith said. “I mean he’s able to stretch the defense because of his shooting so that they have to really key in on him. So that gives a lot of driving lanes for everybody else. He’s an unselfish player. He makes the right plays. He rebounds and does all the little things as well. So he’s a very good player and fun to play with him.”
Musselman also praised Moody and feels he will be a key member of the team this season.
“And Moses is a guy that we’re definitely going to run plays for,” Mussleman said. “We did a segment yesterday for about 45-47 minutes where we came out of huddles and said, ‘Alright, 12 seconds, down 2. 14 seconds, down 3.’ Then we ran specific plays and specific actions and I thought Moses converted at the highest – when we went back and charted it, he was the guy that converted at the highest rate, at least off that one day. Then I thought you saw to start tonight, Moses had really good shot selection and we did run some plays for him early in that first quarter tonight.”
Among the other performers were Desi Sills with 24 points, three rebounds and four assists. Jalen Tate added 11 points, five rebounds and eight assists. Vance Jackson Jr. had 15 points and six boards. Khalen Robinson added 18 points, Davonte Davis had eight points, eight rebounds and five assists while Jaylin Williams contributed four points and seven boards.
Arkansas will open the regular season on Wednesday, Nov. 25, when they host Mississippi Valley State in Bud Walton Arena.