FAYETTEVILLE – Apparently the Arkansas Razorbacks eight days off without a game extended into Day Nine game day’s first half.
Then the Razorbacks went to work. From being down by a dozen during their down 40-30 at intermission first half they vanquished the Oral Robert University Golden Eagles, 87-56 Sunday afternoon at Walton Arena.
Double-doubles by Razorbacks 6-7 senior forward Justin Smith, 22 points and 17 rebounds, and high-leaping 6-1 junior guard Desi Sills, 16 points and 10 rebounds, adding to Moses Moody’s 18 points, JD Notae’s 15 second-half off the bench points, and another defensive gem by Arkansas point guard Jalen Tate resurged the now 7-0 Razorbacks.
They needed all the resurgence they could muster from the game’s first 20 minutes so bad that Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman appreciated radio host Chuck Barrett starting the postgame interview second half first.
“I thought we completely stunk it up that first half,” Musselman said. “So thank you Chuck for bringing up that second half. Obviously we played really well that second half scoring 57 points and outscoring them by 21 points. The first half lethargic.”
Musselman feared such coming off eight days with the Razorbacks enduring their now completed fall semester final exams.
However he noted other factors like “creeping” into this team’s picture starting with offensively eschewing going inside and taking and missing 11 consecutive first-half treys while casually committing nine first-half turnovers to ORU’s two and getting outscored, 18-5 on first-half mistakes.
“I thought it was the first time all year we had some selfishness creep in from an offensive standpoint,” Musselman said, acknowledging he fiercely addressed more inside and less threes during intermission. “I thought guys came into the game tonight thinking score instead of thinking Arkansas. First time it’s happened this year. Hopefully it does not happen again.”
Musselman also said the lack of first-half inside production would not have so stuck out had not the Hogs “missed 13 point-blank shots.”
Add that to the first-half turnovers, (“We’ve got to take care of the ball much, much better than the first half,” Musselman said) and the Hogs dug themselves a hole.
Especially with Coach Paul Mills’ Golden Eagles of the Summit Conference, now only 3-5 but playing a so far much tougher schedule than Arkansas’ including ORU vs. Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Wichita State, arriving inspired into Walton.
ORU senior starting guard RJ Glasper, originally from Forrest City and a former Arkansas walk-on under former Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson, came home scoring 14 points with four rebounds.
ORU forward Kevin Obanor led the Golden Eagles double-doubling with 21 points and 10 boards while Kareem Thompson scored 13 and ORU star guard Max Abmas and DeShawn Weaver off the bench scored 11 each.
Abmas arrived averaging 21 so Musselman loved the defense that Tate played on him.
“Their star player, I don’t know if you could guard No. 3 any better than Jalen Tate did tonight,” Musselman said.
Or rebound better, 58-32 over the Golden Eagles who had outrebounded five of their eight previous foes, Musselman said.
The Hogs dominated the boards both halves and even in their poor first half got Weaver, eventually fouling out, Abmas and Glasper into critical foul trouble affecting their second half.
Media, with Musselman certainly assenting, spent much of the postgame concentrating on Smith’s impact, the 6-7 forward played center most of the second half with Musselman adding guard Notae and subtracting 7-3 center Connor Vanover at the second half’s outset, along with Notae’s 15 second-half points despite 0 for 6 shooting.
“I thought Justin Smith was great,” Musselman said. “He’s as good an offensive rebounder as I’ve ever coached. JD made as many threes (zero) as I did but he has such a great burst going to the basket.”
Sills both halves.
“One of the things we haven’t talked about Desi having 10 rebounds,” Musselman said. “Any time you can get your off guard down there rebounding the ball like Desi did tonight, four offensive boards, I thought he was really vital to us as well.”
Smith remarked, “Desi kept us in it the first half with hustle plays,”
Arkansas faces a quick turnaround hosting Abilene Christian at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Walton on the SEC Network.