Never afraid to contain his emotions, Eric Musselman struggled to hold back on his opinion of the officiating in Arkansas basketball’s hard-fought loss to No. 10 Creighton on Tuesday.
The fourth-year coach was still fuming about some questionable calls in the No. 9 Razorbacks’ 90-87 loss to the Bluejays at the Maui Invitational when he sat down with Chuck Barrett for his postgame interview on the Razorback Sports Network.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Musselman said before Barrett could ask his first question. “I’ve never seen a foul called like that in all the time I’ve coached — a lot of games, a lot of years. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
It’s unclear exactly which of Arkansas’ 22 fouls he was referring to, but it was almost certainly Trevon Brazile’s fourth of the game, which came with 12:09 remaining.
The Missouri transfer was defending Creighton big man Ryan Kalkbrenner when point guard Arthur Kaluma attempted to throw him an entry pass. The ball sailed well out of the 7-foot-1 Kalkbrenner’s reach and out of bounds for an apparent turnover, but Brazile was whistled for a foul on the play.
A lengthy delay ensued as the officials went to the replay monitor to determine if Brazile’s personal foul should be upgraded to a flagrant 1 for a “hook-and-hold.” After seeing the camera angle from the top of the basket, ESPN color commentator Jay Bilas was convinced that not only would it be “mind-boggling” to upgrade the foul, but that no foul actually occurred.
“I don’t see it,” Bilas said. “I just don’t see anything there. They’re looking for a hook-and-hold, I’m sure right now, but they’re not going to see it. If they saw that last angle, they’re not going to see anything.”
It was eventually determined that Bilas was right and it remained a common foul, but Kalkbrenner still got to go to the free throw line and he knocked down 1 of 2 attempts to double Creighton’s lead to 63-61.
That was just one of a series of questionable foul calls that went against Arkansas, which was whistled for 17 second-half fouls. That number was slightly inflated by some intentional fouls late in the game, but a good chunk of them also happened early.
“Eric Musselman really talking with the officials the entire game,” ESPN play-by-play man Dan Shulman noted not long before the aforementioned play with Brazile. “He has been in some kind of a mood here in the second half, especially, with all the fouls piling up on his team.”
The Bluejays reached the bonus with 14:40 remaining and it wasn’t until the 1:32 mark that the Razorbacks joined them.
After Ricky Council IV knocked down a 3-pointer to give Arkansas its first lead of the game with 16:14 remaining, Creighton’s next eight points came at the charity stripe. The lead managed to change hands numerous times despite the Bluejays going more than 5.5 minutes between made field goals.
“We couldn’t play any harder than what we played,” Musselman said on the Razorback Sports Network. “Creighton is a great basketball team. I don’t know what else to say, Chuck.”
Included in that particular stretch was a technical foul on either Musselman or the Arkansas bench — the ESPN broadcast crew of Shulman and Bilas weren’t sure who it was on. It came about 30 seconds after another Council 3 that put the Razorbacks up 53-51. The technical allowed Creighton to tie it back up with a pair of free throws.
Musselman and Arkansas basketball fans weren’t the only ones to take notice of the calls being made. In fact, athletics director Hunter Yurachek fired a shot at the officials by posting a GIF of three blind mice.
At the time of Brazile’s questionable fourth foul, Arkansas had been called for 10 second-half fouls to just two on Creighton. By the end of the game, the Razorbacks had 17 second-half fouls and the Bluejays had nine.
“Well, we’ll never face more adversity,” Musselman said to end the quick interview. “I can’t see it, facing more adversity than we faced tonight.”
Aside from the questionable officiating, Tuesday’s game lived up to its billing as a top-10 matchup — the first such game Arkansas basketball has played in the regular season since 1995.
Creighton jumped out to an early lead thanks to an ice-cold start by the Razorbacks and actually stretched the margin to 12 late in the first half. However, Arkansas managed to cut that deficit in half by scoring the last six points before halftime, with the last two coming on a beautiful lob from Anthony Black to Trevon Brazile for an impressive alley-oop dunk in the closing seconds.
That momentum carried into the second half, as Arkansas chipped away at Creighton’s lead until Ricky Council IV aforementioned 3-pointer that gave it a lead for the first time less than four minutes into the half.
It was the first of 10 lead changes over an eight-minute stretch and neither team led by more than one possession for more than nine minutes until Baylor Scheierman knocked down a 3 with 7:52 remaining to give Creighton a 70-64 edge.
The shot could have been a dagger, but Arkansas never quit and managed to keep it within four over the final six minutes. It even tied it up twice — first on a Brazile 3-pointer at the 2:22 mark and then on a pair of free throws by Jordan Walsh with 1:32 left.
Even when it appeared that all hope was lost, Black drilled a desperation 3 and wanted a foul for a potential game-tying 4-point play with a couple of seconds left, but replays showed the Creighton defender didn’t touch him.
After a pair of free throws by Trey Alexander, the Razorbacks still had 1.9 seconds left to try to tie it up and force overtime, but Black’s half-court heave wasn’t particularly close.
Anthony Black Encore
Just a day after introducing himself to the country with a dominant performance against Louisville, Anthony Black turned in an almost identical stat line in Tuesday’s top-10 matchup.
The freshman phenom had another 26-point, 6-assist, 2-steal outing, but this time also added 6 rebounds instead of 3 and had one fewer turnover (3) in 38 minutes.
In two games at the Maui Invitational, Black has 52 points on 19 of 29 shooting from the floor and 4 of 8 shooting from beyond the arc. He also has 12 assists, 9 rebounds and 4 steals.
Musselman was complimentary of his play during his postgame interview with Chuck Barrett, but once again circled back around to the officiating.
“Anthony has been unbelievable,” Musselman said. “We went to a middle pick-and-roll and got a lot of good looks in the second half to score 53 points in the second half, but (chuckles) you can’t overcome what we saw.”
Black actually led the Razorbacks in all three major statistical categories (points, rebounds and assists), making him just the fifth freshman in the past 20 seasons to do that in an AP top-10 matchup, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The others include first-overall picks Karl-Anthony Towns from Kentucky and Duke’s Kyrie Irving, fifth-overall pick Kevin Love from UCLA (who did it twice), and first-round pick Tyus Jones from Duke.
Prior to arriving in Hawaii, Black had managed to score only 18 total points in three games combined at Bud Walton Arena.
High Praise from the Opponent
Having escaped with a 3-point win to advance to the Maui Invitational championship game against No. 14 Arizona, the Bluejays spoke highly of the Razorbacks in its postgame press conference.
Head coach Greg McDermott, who has led the Bluejays since taking over the program after Dana Altman (who had spent a grand total of 24 hours as Arkansas basketball coach) left for good in 2010, was impressed by how Arkansas fought to the end.
“It was just an incredible college basketball game,” McDermott said. “There was a lot of haymakers thrown out there in 40 minutes. Their poise for as young as they are is really incredible. … That team’s winning a lot of games. I would like to think we’re going to win a lot of games. They just kind of ran out of time. It was just an awesome basketball game against a very, very good opponent.”
Ryan Nembhard, the younger brother of former Florida and Gonzaga standout Andrew Nembhard, was also complimentary after his 25-point, 5-rebound, 5-assist effort.
“They’re a great team,” Nembhard said. “They got a lot of length. They’re big. They got a lot of size. They play really hard. They try and turn you over. They’re just a good young team. It was a great matchup.”
Up Next: No. 17 San Diego State
The Arkansas basketball team has already taken down one SDSU this season (South Dakota State) and will now take aim at another, as it will play No. 17 San Diego State in the third place game at the Maui Invitational.
The Aztecs briefly took a lead early in the second half, but ran out of gas after digging out of a large first half hole and No. 14 Arizona was able to pull away for a comfortable 87-70 win.
Senior guard Darrion Trammell, the Aztecs’ leading scorer, paced San Diego State with 21 points vs the Wildcasts and averages 14.4 points per game. The transfer from Seattle University is listed at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds and is shooting 36.4% from deep, plus has a knack for getting to the free throw line, where he’s 26 of 32 (81.3%) through five games.
Tipoff between Arkansas and San Diego State is scheduled for 9 p.m. CT and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
Other Arkansas Basketball Tidbits
~Arkansas freshman Nick Smith Jr., the no. 1 player in the 2022 class according to 247Sports, was held out for the fifth straight game. He has yet to make his collegiate debut.
~While Creighton shot a blistering 58.5% from the field and was 7 of 14 (50%) from beyond the arc, the Razorbacks did force it into 17 turnovers. That’s nearly double the nine turnovers the Bluejays averaged over their first five games of the season.
~For the second straight game, Ricky Council IV was Arkansas’ second-leading scorer. He finished with 24 points, increasing his season average to 19 points — the top mark on the team.
~After scoring just two points in the first half, Trevon Brazile was instrumental in the Razorbacks comeback efforts, scoring 15 points in the second half. He poured in 11 of those — including three 3-pointers — after picking up his fourth foul. Brazile also had 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 assists to go with his 17 points.
~Foul trouble limited Makhi Mitchell to a season-low nine minutes against Creighton. He picked up his second foul within the game’s first four minutes and then picked up his third exactly one minute into the second half.
~Mitchell’s twin brother, Makhel, turned in a second straight productive outing, albeit in my less time on the court. Playing just seven minutes, he had 4 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Arkansas vs Creighton Postgame Pressers
Arkansas vs Creighton Highlights
Arkansas vs Creighton Box Score
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