Tate for Thursday

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Just like he has walked in mid-major’s Colgate’s shoes before Arkansas finally cooled the hot-starting, hot-shooting Raiders in last Friday’s start of the NCAA Tournament’s South Regional, Jalen Tate has walked in the mid-major shoes of the Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles.

ORU advanced to play Arkansas in Saturday’s Sweet Sixteen 6:25 p.m TBS televised South Regional semifinal in Indianapolis.

The graduate transfer senior point guard on these 24-6 Razorbacks conquering Colgate, 85-68 and Sunday surviving, 68-66 a second-round, second half comeback by the sixth-seeded Big 12 power Texas Tech Red Raiders, Tate played in a previous NCAA Tournament for Northern Kentucky University of the Horizon League.

Now against the Golden Eagles of the Summit League, Tate faces a team mid-major dismissed as a 15th-seed strutting their stuff in the Sweet Sixteen after stunning second-seeded Ohio State, 75-72 and seventh-seeded Florida, 81-78.

“They’re a team kind of like some of the teams you see coming out of my old conference,” Tate said Wednesday in Indianapolis. “They make a run in their conference tournament (which ORU won) to get here, and they just stay hot. I think they’re riding either a six- or seven-game winning streak.”

It’s the stuff fitting what seems the tournament’s annual mid-major Cinderella slipper.

“Honestly, it’s a dream as a kid coming from a mid-major,” Tate said. “Coming from that, knowing that’s what you aim to do. The whole season you talk about making it to the NCAA Tournament and shocking the world. So the fact that they’ve been able to do that so far is a testament to just how good they are as a team.”

How good is considerably better, as is Arkansas, Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman and Tate said, than both the Golden Eagles and Razorbacks were when they clashed Dec. 20 at Walton Arena.

ORU won the first half, 40-30.

Arkansas won the game, 87-76.

It seems all but irrelevant now from both sides.

Arkansas, with freshman Davonte “Devo” Davis midseason inserted as a fellow starting guard with Tate and freshman All-American Moses Moody and graduate transfer forward Justin Smith’s emergence as Arkansas most consistent 2-way player down the stretch, has established a defensive identity it didn’t have back on Dec.20.

Even back then strictly shooter sixth man JD Notae is getting touted for his defense.

“When it comes to guards, we have guys like myself and Devo Davis that love to step and almost fight for who’s going to guard the best guy,” Tate said. “And then from the big spot, we’ve got guys like Justin Smith, Moses Moody, with great length and athleticism that can keep up with almost anybody. And even off the bench in Desi Sills and JD Notae, and guys like (freshman center) Jaylin Williams, who just sacrifice everything they have for our team.”

Tate praises the Razorbacks for their will but knows they meet a team with a proven will and two hot hands. Golden Eagles Kevin Obanor and Max Abmas.

In their South Regional upsets over Ohio State and Florida, Obanor scored 30 and 28 points while Abmas tallied 29 and 26.

“They have two really good guys that just won’t allow them to lose right now,” Tate said. “They’ve beaten some very quality opponents.”

And it shows.

“I think when you look at the film, they do look like a completely different offensive team,” Tate said. “They have a different type of confidence to them. When you’re winning the games at the rate they are and beating the teams they’ve beaten on paper, the Ohio States and the Floridas, those are household names in college basketball. So it comes with a certain confidence when you can put up those numbers against those teams.”

So Tate glosses over he and the Hogs holding Abmas to 11 back in December in Fayetteville.

“He probably doesn’t feel like he had his best night, and he probably wants to come back at us,” Tate said. “We’re going to leave that in the past and just worry about this next one.”

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