Information from Arkansas Communications is included in this story.
Arkansas raced to a 22-point lead in the first half and held on in the second to defeat Abilene Christian, 85-72, Tuesday afternoon at Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks improve to 8-0 while the Wildcats drop to 7-2.
Arkansas played without coach Eric Musselman, who was absent due to covid-19 close contact tracing protocols. Associate coach David Patrick served as head coach in the win.
Desi Sills scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half to lead the Razorbacks’ hot start. JD Notae scored 17 of his 19 in the second half to help fend off a feisty Wildcat squad.
Moses Moody led all scorers with 21 points while Justin Smith pulled down 10 rebounds.
The Razorbacks expanded their 16-point, halftime lead to 22 with 14:35 left after a pair of Notae free throws.
With nine minutes to play, Abilene Christian slowly chipped away and worked its deficit to nine (77-68) with 3:27 remaining. However, Notae answered with 3-pointer at the 3:06 mark and the Hogs maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the game.
Arkansas dominated on the boards. 39-28, and was 24-of-30 (80%) from the free throw line while ACU was just 9-of-15 at the charity stripe.
While Arkansas committed 13 turnovers, it was 10 below the season average for an ACU opponent as the Wildcats entered the game with a +8.6 turnover margin. ACU also entered the game averaging 11 steals per game but only had three versus the Razorbacks.
Clay Gayman led ACU with 18 points off the bench, including a pair of 3-pointers to help the Wildcats get to within nine.
Up next, Arkansas opens SEC play on Wednesday, Dec. 30, at Auburn. The game will be telecast on ESPN2 and tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
FIRST HALF: Arkansas 47, Abilene Christian 31
• ACU scored first on a free throw but Arkansas scored the next seven to force an ACU timeout. The Razorbacks would push its lead to 11-1 before Mahki Morris hit two free throws at 15:36. ACU did not make a field goal until hitting a 3-pointer at 15:03.
• The Razorbacks ultimately raced out to a 21-9 lead with 11:43 left before the break.
• Arkansas built a 21-point lead with a 14-6 run over 4:48 to lead 40-19 with 4:14 left.
• Arkansas’ largest first-half lead of 22 points (43-21) came at the 3:33 mark.
• Arkansas shot 54% from the field and forced ACU into seven first-half turnovers.
• Desi Sills led the Hogs with 16 points, making 6-of-7 from the free throw line.
• Arkansas was 15-of-20 at the free throw line while ACU was just 4-of-7.
SECOND HALF: Arkansas 36, Abilene Christian 41
• This was the first time Arkansas was out-scored in the second half this season.
• While Arkansas shot 53.8% from the field in the first half, it shot just 34.6% in the second half. ACU only shot 39.4% from the field in the first half but shot 57.1% in the second.
• Despite the lead going from 22 points to nine in the second half, ACU’s largest scoring run was just six points.
• Arkansas has won all games this season by at least 11 points.
• This was the first meeting between Arkansas and Abilene Christian. However, acting head coach David Patrick faced the Wildcats as head coach of UC Riverside on Nov. 24, 2018. Patrick lost that game 60-48 in Pacific’s Thanksgiving Tiger Tournament (Stockton, Calif.).
• Arkansas’ starting lineup was Jalen Tate (G) – Desi Sills (G) – Moses Moody (G) – Justin Smith (F) – Connor Vanover (F) for the seventh straight game.
• For the second straight game, Arkansas did not control the tip. Arkansas is 6-0 when it controls the tip and 2-0 when it does not.
• ACU’s Kolton Kohl scored the game’s first points, a free throw at 19:30. Arkansas’ first points came from Jalen Tate, a layup at 19:16.
• JD Notae was the first sub for Arkansas for the fifth time in eight games.
• Despite winning the game, Arkansas was out-scored by ACU’s bench, 35-27, and the Razorbacks were out-scored 40-24 in the paint.
• Abilene Christian scored the first points of the game, a free throw, and led for just 14 seconds. Arkansas scored on the ensuing possession and led the final 39:16 of the game.
• Arkansas is 8-0 for the second straight year. The last time Arkansas started 8-0 in back-to-back seasons was 1992-93 (8-0) and 1993-94 (10-0).
• Moses Moody has led Arkansas in scoring a team-best three times through the first eight games.
• Moses Moody had a season-high two blocked shots, giving him six for the season.
• Moses Moody recorded his second 20-point game, is the only Razorback to score in double figures in all eight games and is the only Razorback to make a 3-pointer in all eight games.
• Justin Smith recorded his seventh career game with double-digit rebounds. He is just 21 rebounds shy of 500 for his career. He is 79 points shy of 1,000 for his career.
• Desi Sills made a career-high six free throws and his seven attempts as one shy of his career high. He had two steals in the win to give the junior 15. He entered the game as the SEC leader in thefts.