Hoop Hogs host Mean Green at Wal­ton

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Nate Allen Ra­zor­backs Re­port

FAYETTEVIL­LE - Don’t ex­pect last Tues­day’s 91-43 sea­son-open­ing Ra­zor­backs’ romp over Rice re­peated when Arkansas hosts the Univer­sity of North Texas Mean Green tonight.

Tipoff be­tween Arkansas, 1-0 of the SEC and the Mean Green of Con­fer­ence USA is 7 p.m. at Wal­ton Area on the Ra­zor­backs Ra­dio Net­work and In­ter­net video avail­able on SEC +.

The Mean Green’s loss ac­tu­ally elic­its more at­ten­tion than its win. As ex­pected UNT, romped 79-40 over lower di­vi­sion Ok­la­homa Chris­tian in Den­ton,

Texas, but then played na­tion­ally No. 25 Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth, the reign­ing At­lantic 10 cham­pion, to the wire, los­ing 59-56 Fri­day night in Rich­mond, Vir­ginia.

“We felt like we gave our­selves a chance to win and we’re ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed that we didn’t,” UNT Coach Grant Mc­casland said postgame Fri­day in Rich­mond. “I was proud of our guys’ fight in the second half. Credit to VCU for be­ing tremen­dous and tough and get­ting to the foul line when they needed to and mak­ing big shots.”

Mc­casland’s teams are known for sticky de­fense. Ob­vi­ously UNT has played such its two games so far.

“Coach Grant does a re­ally good job,” Arkansas Coach Eric Mus­sel­man said.

Mus­sel­man im­plied Mc­casland’s unique de­fense can turn sim­ply in­bound­ing to an of­fen­sive mis­ad­ven­ture.

“The way they de­fend with their in­bounder, in­stead of hav­ing him guard the ball, at times we’ve seen that in­bound de­fender sag all the way out off in the lane,” Mus­sel­man said. “So it’s

al­most like you are go­ing four against five. So, it’s go­ing to be im­por­tant just to get the ball in. If they go to that type of de­fense where that guy on the ball is re­ally off in the lane to give them an ex­tra de­fender.”

Tak­ing care of the ball against such a de­fense ob­vi­ously is para­mount, par­tic­u­larly as Mus­sel­man was dis­mayed with 21 Arkansas turnovers even as the Ra­zor­backs routed Rice.

Cut­ting turnovers has been first-year Arkansas Coach Mus­sel­man’s ob­jec­tive since view­ing game film of last sea­son’s Ra­zor­backs and cer­tainly was reem­pha­sized in prac­tices be­tween the Rice game and tonight’s game.

“Ev­ery team has got is­sues, so to speak, and with us it’s turnovers,” Mus­sel­man said. “It’s probably go­ing to be an is­sue all year, it’s just a mat­ter of how much we can cover that bandaid up as much as pos­si­ble. Just got to try to keep talk­ing about it, show them, in­di­vid­u­ally show them, col­lec­tively show them, talk about the value of get­ting a shot on goal is re­ally what we’re try­ing to con­vey to our guys to try to limit live-ball turnovers.”

Un­forced turnovers es­pe­cially.

“Rice didn’t press us and we were turn­ing the ball over even against a zone,” Mus­sel­man said. “Rice played zone most of the game and usu­ally you don’t turn the ball over against zone. But we did. We’ve had a lot of charges in tran­si­tion, so when you work on things from a fun­da­men­tal stand­point, some­times our charges are even off drib­ble pen­e­tra­tion in tran­si­tion, and then pass-offs to where your mo­men­tum car­ries you for­ward, so maybe we’ll try some more jump-stop passes in tran­si­tion.”

That said, the Ra­zor­backs did rout Rice by 48.

“We still scored 91 points and played great de­fense,” Mus­sel­man said. “So we’ll keep try­ing to work at it.”

Ju­nior guard Ma­son

Jones’ 32 points and 24 by Isa­iah Joe, the sopho­more guard from Fort Smith North­side, with Jones grab­bing seven re­bounds and mak­ing five steals with three as­sists, while Joe dished seven as­sists.

For­ward Adrio Bailey’s nine re­bounds led Arkansas’ sur­pris­ing 45-27 re­bound­ing ad­van­tage over Rice.

How­ever the Ra­zor­backs, a small team, par­tic­u­larly if 6-8 sopho­more Reg­gie Chaney re­mains on Mus­sel­man’s “in­def­i­nite sus­pen­sion” re­gard­ing undis­closed vi­o­la­tions of team rules, faced a Rice team whose taller play­ers were not par­tic­u­larly phys­i­cal or pro­fi­cient.

The Mean Green, match­ing Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth re­bound for re­bound 31-31, re­turn 2018-2019 ev­ery game starter Zachary Sim­mons, a 6-10, 235-pound force av­er­ag­ing 7.0 re­bounds last sea­son. UNT brings 6-8 Thomas Bell, eight boards against VCU, off the bench and starts a 6-8 grad trans­fer, Deng Geu.

DJ Draper, a 6-foot guard off the bench, is the Mean Green’s mean­est 3-point shooter. He hit 4 of 7 treys against VCU.

Mc­casland lauded off guard Umoja Gib­son mov­ing to the second-half point against VCU with start­ing UNT point guard Javion Ham­let mired in foul trou­ble.

“I thought Mo was un­be­liev­able in the second half running the point,” Mc­casland said. “To get out of here and have five as­sists and only two turnovers was just re­ally the dif­fer­ence in the game.”

CRAVEN WHIT­LOW/NATE Allen Sports Ser­vice

Ra­zor­back sopho­more guard Isa­iah Joe, 1, drives to the bas­ket against Rice Tues­day night at Bud Wal­ton Arena in Fayettevil­le. Joe scored 24 points and dished out seven as­sists in the win over Rice, with the Hogs host­ing the North Texas Mean Green tonight at 7.

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