FAYETTEVILLE – Saturday, Dec. 12 seems quite recent.
Apparently to Eric Musselman it seems an eternity.
Asked postgame how he liked his Arkansas Razorbacks’ time off from the Dec. 12, 100-75 victory over the University of Central Arkansas to Sunday’s SEC Network televised 1 p.m. game at Walton Arena with the Tulsa-based Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles, Musselman answered the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Bob Holt’s question with a question.
“Do you like going to the dentist?”
“Not really,” Bob replied.
“That’s how I feel about a week between games,” Musselman replied.
An entire week off doesn’t happen in the pro minor leagues and NBA where Musselman long coached until coaching the college game as an LSU assistant then head coach at Nevada and now 6-0 in his second season head coaching the Hogs.
“ I like to compete,” Musselman said. “I like to get better during games. So I hate a week break and I know our players do, too.”
He understands final exams weeks are difficult enough for college and that the players just have to improve at their Eddie Sutton Practice Court while Walton Arena serves as a 2020 Commencement site until re-suited for Sunday basketball.
“We’ve got to be ready to play,” Musselman said.”We’ve got 80 more minutes of nonconference play before we start conference.”
Sunday’s game and Tuesday night’s game against Abilene Christian at Walton mark the Razorbacks’ final games before their SEC opener Dec. 30 at Auburn.
Against fourth-year ORU head coach and former 14-year Baylor assistant Paul Mills’ 3-4 Golden Eagles, Musselman’s Razorbacks need to be ready to play a team launching threes led by a high-scoring point plus an Arkansas native son former Razorback in the backcourt.
Max Abmas, a 6-1 sophomore point guard, averages a team-leading 20.7 points, including 22 of 48 threes, and team-leading 28 assists.
Forrest City’s RJ Glasper, once a former Razorbacks redshirted freshman walk-on under former Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson and then a 3-year starter scholarship starter at Arkansas Tech, starts as a listed 6-1 grad transfer guard averaging 8.7 points with 10 treys.
“No. 3 (Abmas) at the point guard position can really, really shoot the basketball,” Musselman said. “He’s star quality.”
“He’s done a great job,” Musselman said. “He’s their fourth-leading scorer. I wasn’t here when he was here, but he’s done a great job from 3. He’s good off the bounce. He’s a really good player.”
Kareem Thompson, ORU’s 6-6 starting swingman, averages just a shade, 8.6 points, under Glasper and with 10 of 20 3-point accuracy.
Up front 6-8 forward Kevin Obanor averages second on the team scoring 17.3, including 11 of 28 threes, and a team-leading 8.8 rebounds.
ORU’s third-leading scorer, graduate transfer Justin Lovvorn of both Dallas Baptist and Hardin-Simmons, averages 11.0 points but has only played in three of ORU’s seven games. He did not play the most recent one, Wednesday’s 79-65 loss at Oklahoma in Norman.
Much of ORU’s four losses seem more impressive than its wins frosting cupcakes Rogers State, Southwest Christian and Bacone.
Since overpowered by the SEC’s Missouri opening against the Tigers in Columbia, Mo., and by four outscored the Big 12’s Oklahoma in the second half after overpowered down 18 in the first, the Golden Eagles of the Summit League battled to the wire in 5-point losses at Wichita State of the American Athletic Conference, and the Big 12’s Oklahoma State.
Abmas scored 18 on Missouri, 28 on Wichita State, 36 on Oklahoma State and 20 on Oklahoma.
Jalen Tate, 6-6 and Arkansas’ best guard to small forward defender, no doubt will be assigned Abmas.
“It’s hard to take him (Tate) off the floor because he’s so good defensively,” Musselman said. “And then you add in what he’s doing from an offensive standpoint (a team-leading 28 assists and averaging 10.7 points including 7 of 10 threes) he’s been a really, really key piece to what we’ve done so far.”
Tate posted a 17-points/11 assists double-double in that Dec. 12 game against UCA despite injuring both his ankle and his hand.
Musselman thought postgame that Tate would sit some of this week’s practices. He said he thought wrong.
“He hasn’t missed a minute of practice which has surprised us,” Musselman said. “We thought maybe toward the beginning of the week that he might need a day or two, but he’s gone through everything and seems to be really, really healthy.”
Musselman saw much offensive good in Arkansas output against UCA on Dec. 12 but other than center Connor Vanover’s 10 rebounds and 6-6 guard Moses Moody’s seven, Musselman frowned as UCA outrebounded his Hogs by two.
“ I thought we’ve rebounded the ball pretty well,” Musselman said. “Obviously we took a step back against Central Arkansas. We’ve got to get back to rebounding the ball collectively 1 through 5.
So that’s some of the things that we’ve tried to correct and address these last few days.”