FAYETTEVILLE – Regrouping Razorbacks and regrouping Missouri Tigers regroup against each other in the second SEC basketball game for each.
Arkansas, 9-0, 1-0 in the SEC, and Coach Cuonzo Martin’s nationally No. 12 Tigers, 6-1, 0-1, clash in Arkansas’ first SEC home game of the season tipping off at 11 a.m. on CBS at Walton Arena.
The Tigers regroup because though ranked they got spanked in 73-53 by Tennessee in their SEC opener Wednesday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.
Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman quickly reminds that Tennessee, 7-0 looming Wednesday night against Arkansas in Knoxville, Tenn., nationally ranks seventh, the highest of SEC teams with Missouri next.
And this Mizzou team returns intact a team that split with Arkansas home and home last season and this season at neutral site St. Louis beat then nationally No. 6 Illinois and also defeated Pac 12 power Oregon and routed 91-64 the same Oral Roberts team that Arkansas routed, 87-56.
He implied some teams simply don’t match up well against a particular opponent on a particular night but can excel the next game.
“I know that Missouri is a really, really good team,” Musselman said. “I know they’re really, really well coached. I know they’re tough-minded. They believe in their coach and they’re really experienced, so it makes them really dangerous.”
The Tigers start strong up returning with 6-10 and 6-7 rebounders Jeremiah Tilmon .7.3 average and 6-7 Kobe Brown, 6.0 average
with guards Xavier Pinson, Mark Smith and Dru Smith doing the majority scoring averaging 13.9, 12.7 and 12.1 points.
Another Smith, 6-10 fifth-year senior Mitchell Smith, looms large off the Mizzou bench.
Musselman stresses Mizzou’s physicality and defense, point guard Pinson’s combo scoring and directing the offense and Mark Smith’s 3-point shooting.
The Razorbacks wouldn’t seem need of regrouping belying their covid-19 altered to a largely no-name nonconference schedule by opening the SEC winning Wednesday 97-85 at Auburn.
However their best rebounder, 6-7 grad transfer Justin Smith, watched the game’s final 28 minutes with a sprained ankle in a walking boot and seems questionable against Mizzou.
“He’s really, really swollen and sore,” Musselman said Thursday. “There’s nothing to my knowledge that there’s anything broken but it’s a deep bone bruise.”
What’s the plan if it’s minus Arkansas’ Smith against Mizzou’s three Smiths?
“Should we get Coach Martin on the call and we’ll just tell him our game plan?” Musselman responded laughing. “He’s a great player for us as we all know. Because he’s a great defender and a great rebounder and has had some big scoring nights. I thought in transition last night Justin was great. But he only played 11 minutes last night and we kind of had rotations that we hadn’t used before, and had players in different positions than they have all year.
It’s next man up whether it’s a coach out, whether it’s a player out.”
Assistant coach David Patrick subbed for covid-19 tracing quarantined Musselman piloting the Dec. 22 victory over Abilene Christian, and a host of Razorbacks, including lesser-used reserves Devo Davis of Jacksonville and Ethan Henderson of Little Rock contributed to defeating Auburn including guard Desi Sills, sixth man JD Notae, center Connor Vanover, and guards Moses Moody and Jalen Tate scorning 23, 21,17, 16 and 12 points offsetting Auburn hitting 15 of 29 threes.
Points likely will come fewer Saturday in Fayetteville with Martin’s Tigers likely seeking a slower tempo than Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl’s willingness to run with the Razorbacks.
(END OF STORY, LINEUPS FOLLOW)
ARKANSAS (9-0, 1-0)
F-Justin Smith 6-7 Sr. 11.6 pts. 7.1rebs.
C-Connor Vanover 7-3 So. 9.6 7.3
G-Jalen Tate 6-6 Sr. 10.1 4.4
G-Desi Sills 6-1 Jr. 14.1 4.1
G-Moses Moody 6-6 Fr. 16.8 5.7
MISSOURI (6-1, 0-1)
F-Kobe Brown So. 6-7 So. 6.6 6.0
C-Jeremiah Tilmon 6-10 Sr. 8.3 7.3
G-Xavier Pinson 6-2 Jr. 13.9 3.6
G-Dru Smith 6-3 Sr. 12.1 3.3
G-Mark Smith 6-5 Sr. 12.7 2.4