By Rick Kennedy, updated Tuesday night
Arkansas opened the NIT on the road Tuesday night with a strong 84-72 win over the hosting Providence Friars in Rhode Island, and will move on to a second-round matchup with Indiana on Saturday, March 23.
Game time had yet to be announced late Tuesday night, but it will be broadcast nationally on ESPN or ESPN2.
According to a game summary released by the UA Sports Information Dept. after the victory, Mason Jones lead the Razorbacks with 18 points off the bench, while Reggie Chaney scored 14 points.
The Razorbacks made three-point play to start the game and then made its next five 3-pointers to race out to a 20-9 lead in a game that Arkansas dominated from beginning to end, according to the UA SID.
Isaiah Joe, one of the SEC’s leading three-point shooters, added 12 points.
For the Friars, Malek White scored 19 points, and Alpha Diallo had 12 points, 11 boards, six steals and four assists.
The Razorbacks next opponent is the formidable Indiana Hoosiers, who stopped an upset bid by St. Francis 89-72 at home, also played on Tuesday night.
Indiana’s Juwan Morgan scored 21 of his 28 points in the second half as Hoosiers scored 55 points in the final 20 minutes to hold off the surprising Red Flash. St. Francis actually led 40-34 at halftime in the contest.
**** original Tuesday ***** Although Arkansas (17-15) did not hear its name during the NCAA’s Selection Sunday, the Razorback men’s basketball team does see postseason action tonight in Providence, Rhode Island, where they will face the Providence Friars (18-15) in the 32-team National Invitational Tournament.
Locally, the game will be televised on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. Central Time with an option live stream at ESPN Online. On radio, the game will be broadcast live on the Razorback/IMG Sports Network with Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman, according to the Arkansas Razorback Sports Information Dept. (SID).
Arkansas finished 9th in the Southeastern Conference; the Razorbacks interestingly defeated Alabama (18-15), also in the NIT as a Number 1 seed, to close the regular season 82-70, but in the SEC Tournament last week, the Razorbacks crashed in the first-round to Florida 66-50.
As the Razorbacks prepared to play tonight, it will do so without El Dorado standout Daniel Gafford. On Monday afternoon, Arkansas head men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson announced that Gafford, a sophomore, will forego his remaining eligibility and declare for the 2019 NBA Draft, so he is not participating in today’s NIT game in Anderson’s statement released by the UA Sports Information Dept.
The National Invitation Tournament (NIT) is actually the country’s longest running college basketball postseason event, which plays its Final Four and Championship game annually at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Within the 32-team field, Arkansas was placed in the “Indiana Bracket,” named after the bracket’s top-seed Indiana. If Arkansas defeats Providence tonight, and Indiana wins its game tonight against St. Francis, then Arkansas will face Indiana in Bloomington in the second round.
According to the UA SID, this will be the fourth trip to the NIT for the Razorbacks and Arkansas has posted a 5-4 record in the postseason tournament.
Arkansas went 1-1 in 1987, but ten years later in 1997, the Razorbacks were 3-2 and reached the Final Four. The last time Arkansas went to the NIT was 2014 and the Razorbacks were 1-1.
Under the leadership of Anderson, the Razorbacks are playing in the postseason for the third consecutive year and the fifth time in the last six years. (NCAA in 2015, ‘17 and ‘18 and the NIT in 2014 and ‘19). Overall, this is Arkansas’ 37th postseason berth, including 34 in the NCAA and three in the NIT, according the UA SID.