Hoop Hogs host Mean Green at Walton
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.”
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.