Eric Musselman was watching Arkansas’ 85-72 win over Abilene Christian on Tuesday afternoon from his house, but his coaching was on full display.
Associate coach David Patrick was running things on the sideline, but he made it pretty clear later he wasn’t changing much about the Razorbacks.
When the Wildcats cut the Hogs’ lead to 77-68 with 3:27 left there were probably some wondering if Musselman’s unexpected absence was going to be the difference.
“Offensively we made a couple of boo-boo’s there at the end that got them some quick shots,” Patrick said later. “Those things are tough. When you’re up 10 with two minutes to go, the other team has nothing to lose, you’ve really got to control the game.”
Until early Tuesday morning Musselman figured he would be on the sidelines. Then he got the call that someone had been in contact with a person who tested positive for covid-19. It’s why he talked Patrick into leaving a head coaching position at California-Riverside for Fayetteville.
“I’m blessed to have been a head coach before so I wasn’t a rookie, so to speak,” Patrick said. “I didn’t try to do my thing. I tried to do what he stressed to the team.”
Musselman will probably give the credit to the ones who were at the game, but it was his tone set in practices leading up to it and his talking to the team earlier today that showed up in the game.
Abilene Christian was touted as being the toughest non-conference opponent for the Hogs before conference play starts Dec. 30 against Auburn.
The Wildcats got down early and the only time they had hope was really too late.
Sure, there’s credit that goes to Patrick and the other coaches. A lot goes to players, who have completely bought in to Musselman’s coaching, absorbed what they have been teaching and Tuesday evening took it to the court.
It showed from the start they listened to what Musselman had been jumping up and down about since the Central Arkansas game when the Hogs started the game by sleepwalking.
“The lesson after the last game, that coach Muss talked to them about, is you can’t underestimate anybody, and you’ve got to come out swinging,” Patrick said. “The guys took the message from our last game and came out focused.”
That was Musselman’s coaching during the week.
Plus defense, which is what Patrick coaches.
“Our defense in the first half was good,” he said. “It wasn’t as good in the second half.”
Until it had to be.
After Abilene Christian got a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 9 with 3:27 left, the Hogs’ defense went to work.
Over the final stretch, Arkansas gave up just a couple of layups while J.D. Notae hit a big 3-pointer and Moses Moody nailed some clutch free throws.
The Hogs didn’t allow a single point for the final 1:02 of the game.
Going into conference play, the Hogs are undefeated. That’s better than any alternative you can name. I don’t care who the opponent is.
Now the challenge is everybody avoiding the coronavirus (or anybody infected) over the holiday break before they come back for practices immediately after Christmas.
Musselman will have the players ready for what he can control.
It’s the things he can’t that drive everybody crazy.