FAYETTEVILLE – Against sickly Vanderbilt the Razorbacks continued to get well.
Stopping a two-games blowouts losing skid rallying from down 19 during the first half to overtake Auburn, 75-73 last Wednesday, Arkansas start to finish vanquished Vandy, 92-71 in Saturday afternoon’s SEC game at the Commodores’ Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.
With three of their last four games postponed and their practice routine constantly disrupted because of covid-19 coronavirus issues including postponing last Wednesday’s game against Texas A&M, and Memorial Gym attendance limited to players’ family, media, Coach Jerry Stackhouse’s now 4-7 overall, 0-5 in the SEC Commodores, played Saturday minus quarantined starting forwards Dylan Disu and Quentin Millora-Brown.
Disu, 6-9, is Vandy’s second best player and best rebounder.
Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks, advancing to 12-4 overall and evening their SEC record at 4-4 going into Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. SEC game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Walton Arena, not only had a full complement roster but guards Jalen Tate and Moses Moody fully complementing.
Graduate transfer point guard Tate scored a season-high 25 points. Even more impressively Tate dished eight assists vs. just one turnover and copped four steals while securing five rebounds.
Freshman off guard/small forward Moody, Arkansas’ leading scorer averaging 16.7 points going into the game but scoring only five last Wednesday against Auburn, tallied a game-high 26 points against Vandy and grabbed eight rebounds.
Graduate transfer forward Justin Smith, a big third wheel for the Hogs Saturday rolling with 12 points and seven boards, was asked the effect of having Arkansas’ point guard and top scoring off guard on a simultaneous roll
“It’s a huge factor,” Smith said. “It gives us a lot of different options offensively when they’re both able to create and they’re making shots. We need them to keep doing that, for sure.”
Tate wasn’t made media available but drew Moody’s compliments for complementing the Hogs with his 25 points and eight assists.
“”That was a good part of the win,” Moody said. “I think he had six assists in the first half. He gets everyone else involved. Then, when he’s in the lane they know he’s trying to get other people the ball so it’s easier for him to get buckets. It’s a big help when he does.”
Tate, 6-6, drew the game’s biggest defensive assignment vs. Scotty Pippen Jr., son of NBA and University of Central Arkansas Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, and not only Vandy’s by far best player but SEC’s second-leading scorer.
Averaging 21.2 points with 70 free throws attempted for his previous 10 games, Pippen scored 15 Saturday and only got to free throw line four times making three.
“ I thought we did a great job keeping Pippen off the foul line which was the biggest game plan for us defensively,” Musselman said. “Tate was assigned to him the entire game. Jalen was phenomenal with 25 (points) eight (assists) and only one turnover and four steals. Then add in the fact that he held the second-leading scorer in the league to under 50% and to only score 15 points and to probably have what I’m going to assume was close to a season low in free throws attempted. I thought Moses was really good around the rim tonight. I thought he didn’t settle from three. I thought he ran the floor really hard today.”
After disastrous starts in lopsided losses at LSU and at Alabama and the down by 19 during the first half vs. Auburn, Arkansas jumped Vandy with a 9-0 game opening run. It started with a Desi Sills layup followed by Moody inside, a Connor Vanover trey, and Smith deuce.
The Commodores gamely sallied forth with a 6-0 salvo. That down three was the closest they could get in the first half they trailed, 45-35.
Pippen’s basket opening the second half marked Vandy’s last time trailing in single digits.
D.J. Harvey’s 16 points, Pippen’s 15 and 14 by Maxwell Evans led Vandy’s losing cause easily surpassed by Arkansas’ big three combining for 63 points while Tate trendset the Hogs netting 22 assists vs. 11 turnovers.
“Sharing of the basketball was so important to us tonight,” Musselman said. “Anytime you can go 22 assists to 11 turnovers that’s a really, really good job by the entire team of playing unselfish.”