After back-to-back SEC losses, Arkansas fans weren’t quite ready to leap off the Mussbus, but some were starting to squirm.
A lot of that changed Saturday in front of a nearly-packed Bud Walton Arena as Eric Musselman gave everyone another sign he knows a thing or two about coaching a basketball team.
“It was our best game of the year on both sides of the ball,” Musselman said after the 78-67 win over a pretty good TCU team.
Considering that Musselman consults with his dog, Swish, every morning you wonder if other coaches may start talking to them more frequently.
Don’t worry about it. The only problem there is if they start blaming the dog.
The Razorbacks lost a game to Kentucky a week ago they at least had a chance of winning before collapsing late. Then they dropped a road game against Mississippi State on Wednesday.
With second-leading scorer Isaiah Joe out for this game after tweaking his knee in the second half at Starkville, it was normal for folks to be a little concerned.
Instead they beat a pretty good TCU team a lot easier than anybody expected as Mason Jones found a way to score, Desi Sills started hitting three-pointers and Jimmy Whitt, Jr., played one of the best defensive games seen in Fayetteville in awhile.
Whitt face-guarded TCU’s Desmond Bane the entire game and held the second-leading scorer in the Big 12 (averaging 17.2 points a game) to just 8, six of those coming on back-to-back 3-pointers to start the second half.
“He’s one of the best defenders I’ve ever seen at the collegiate level,” Musselman said later.
That was the end of non-conference games that included road wins over three Power 5 teams, Indiana, Georgia Tech and the Horned Frogs.
“We were awesome,” was how Musselman described the Hogs’ in non-conference games. They only dropped a road game against Western Kentucky. “Now we’ll see what we do in our own conference.”
Arkansas led by as many as seven in the first half and took a four-point lead at the break, 33-29.
Jones, who only scored one point in the first half, opened the second half with a 3-pointer and Whitt had a layup to push the lead to nine.
TCU cut the Hogs’ lead to three twice over the next minute-and-a-half before Reggie Chaney reeled off six straight points for the Razorbacks to regain a 9-point lead (46-37 with 16:09 left).
The Horned Frogs hung around until a technical foul was called on TCU coach Jamie Dixon. From that point, the Razorbacks turned a five-point game (51-46 with 10 minutes left) into a 15-point game (63-48 with 7:53 left) and held on for the win.
“I only yelled ‘carry,'” Dixon said later, clearly miffed at the technical call. “That was it.”
First half notes
• TCU scored the game’s first four points. Arkansas rallied to tie the game at 6-6.
• The first 17 minutes featured four ties and three lead changes. The last lead change was a 6-0 Razorback run for a seven-point (24-17) lead at 5:04.
• Whitt led the Hogs with 12 first-half points (5-of-8)
• Sills added 11 off the bench (4-of-5 field goals, including 2-of-2 on 3-pointers to halt a dry spell behind the arc).
Second half notes
• Arkansas scored the first five points of the second half on a Jones’ 3-pointer and a jumper by Whitt jumper to go up nine, 38-29.
• Jones scored 19 of his 20 points in the first half.
• Arkansas’ starting lineup was Jimmy Whitt (G) – Jalen Harris (G) – Mason Jones (G) – Adrio Bailey (F) – Reggie Chaney (F) for the first time this season. It was the third different starting lineup Arkansas has used this season.
“I had a great walk this morning with my dog, and Swish told me to stick [Harris] in there and bring Desi off the bench and start Reggie,” Musselman said later. “I listened to my dog so it worked out well tonight.”
• Arkansas won the tip for the 10th time in 19 games this season. Arkansas is 8-2 in such games.
• TCU’s Kevin Samuel scored the first points of the game, a put-back at 19:16. Jalen Harris scored Arkansas’ first points, a 3-pointer at 18:20. It was his first time to score the team’s first points this season.
• TCU is one of Arkansas’ oldest rivals. The Horned Frogs are one of three teams on the Razorbacks’ schedule in 1923-24, the program’s first year of basketball. Arkansas is now 105-38 versus TCU, including a 55-15 mark in Fayetteville.
• Arkansas played in its sixth consecutive Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Razorbacks are 3-3 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge with wins over Texas Tech (2016), Oklahoma State (2018) and TCU (2020) at home. Arkansas lost at Iowa State (2015), at Oklahoma State (2017) and at Texas Tech (2019).
• Both teams attempted 50 field goals, Arkansas made 27 shots and TCU 24. Both teams made six 3-pointers.
• This was the third game Arkansas shot over 50% from the field (54%.).
• Arkansas’ 14 assists were its most since Valpo (Dec. 21).
• TCU’s 19 turnovers were the most by an opponent since Austin Peay (Dec. 3).
• Sills’ 18 points were his second-best career effort.
• Whitt played all 40 minutes for the second time this season and he has played at least 44 in Arkansas’ two overtime times. Whitt played all 40 minutes at LSU to become the first Razorbacks to play all 40 minutes in a regulation game since 2009.
• Whitt has scored in double-digits in seven straight, including 22 points at LSU, 30 versus Vanderbilt and 20 at Mississippi State.
• In addition to Whitt’s 20 points, the graduate senior was impressive guarding Bane. Bane entered the game averaging 17.2 ppg while averaging 6.3 shots made and 13.2 attempts. Bane also ranked 14th in the NCAA in 3-point shooting (44.1%). Whitt held Bane to just 3-of-6 shooting from the field (2-of-3 from 3-point range) and he scored just eight points – his third single-digit scoring output of the year.
• Chaney was 3-of-6 from the field He has made 19-of-his-last-23 shots from the field (82.6%).
Information, game notes from Razorback Sports Communications are included in this story.