Arkansas vs Auburn: Projecting How Pinion Does on the Road + Tigers Rarin’ for Revenge

Joseph Pinion, Arkansas basketball, Arkansas vs Auburn
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

Live Updates – Arkansas vs Auburn

Pregame Tidbits

11:52, 1H – Auburn 18, Arkansas 14

Auburn opened the game with a rare 4-point play and that was a sign of what was to come, as the Tigers came out on fire. They made 7 of their first 13 shots, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. Wendell Green Jr. – who made only 3 of 23 over the last six games – made his first two 3-point attempts.

Arkansas had a 1-of-8 stretch over a five-minute stretch, but is still hanging tough through the first part of the first half. Ricky Council IV and Anthony Black have 5 points apiece for the Razorbacks, while Green has 9.

HALF – Auburn 36, Arkansas 25

The Tigers went nearly 8 minutes without making a shot, but Arkansas was only able to cut its deficit to four. Over the final four minutes, Auburn out-scored the Razorbacks 8-1 to stretch its lead back to 11.

Arkansas was just 1 of 7 on layup and 8 of 17 from the free throw, meaning it left a lot of points on the floor in the first half.

First Half Stats – Arkansas vs Auburn

10:50, 2H – Auburn 51, Arkansas 38

Auburn quickly stretched its lead to 15 to start the half, but Anthony Black got very aggressive and scored five straight to make it a 10-point game. Black ended up scoring 11 straight points for the Razorbacks, almost single-handedly keeping them in the game.

Makhi Mitchell was shaken up on a hard foul that led to him landing on his hip. He was eventually able to walk off under his own power, but had to leave the game.

FINAL – Auburn 72, Arkansas 59

The lead hovered around 10 for much of the second half. Arkansas had numerous opportunities to cut it to single-digits, but couldn’t convert until Ricky Council IV got a shot to fall that made it 60-51 with 3:42 remaining. Auburn scored the next four and that was all she wrote.

Black finished a game-high 23 points for the Razorbacks, with 18 of those coming in the second half.

Arkansas managed to grab 17 offensive rebounds, but turned those into only 8 second-chance points.

FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs Auburn

Starting Lineups

#12 – G Zep Jasper#0 – G Anthony Black
#1 – G Wendell Green Jr.#4 – G Davonte Davis
#2 – F Jaylin Williams#1 – G Ricky Council IV
#4 – F Johni Broome#13 – G/F Jordan Walsh
#5 – F Chris Moore#15 – F/C Makhi Mitchell

Arkansas vs Auburn Preview

Not quite a year ago, an unranked Arkansas basketball squad knocked off No. 1 Auburn in overtime in front of the largest crowd in Bud Walton Arena history.

Davonte Davis capped the Razorbacks’ ninth straight victory at the time with an emphatic dunk off of a self-alley-oop pass, swinging off the rim right over the outstretched arms of Auburn’s Wendell Green just as fans rushed the court, making for one of the most memorable moments in program history.

Now it’s Auburn’s turn to host No. 13 Arkansas for the first time since the emotional contest last season, with tipoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT Saturday inside Neville Arena — where the No. 22 Tigers have won 26 straight games. It will be televised on the SEC Network.

Not only will Auburn be trying to bounce back against the Razorbacks, but also from their 86-74 upset loss at Georgia on Wednesday night.

Auburn returns five players who played in the overtime loss in Fayetteville last season, including Little Rock native Allen Flanigan and West Memphis native Chris Moore. Both Arkansans were on Razorbacks’ radar coming out of high school, but chose to attend Auburn instead. Both also have experience playing against their hometown Hogs with a combined seven matchups between the two.

The Tigers also have senior forward Jaylin Williams (not that Jaylin Williams) and the aforementioned Wendell Green, who might have a score to settle with Davis. Expect tensions to be high for what will likely be the second of three straight top-25 matchups for Arkansas vs programs using the tiger as a mascot.

What to Expect from Auburn

These particular Tigers are led offensively by 6-foot-10 transfer forward Johni Broome. In two years at Morehead State, Broome tallied 15.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game — including 3.9 BPG in 2021-22 — on 56% shooting.

Now in his first season with Auburn, the sophomore is averaging 13.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Makhi Mitchell, who helped limit Missouri star big man Kobe Brown to 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting, will draw this defensive assignment out of the gate. This matchup will perhaps test Mitchell’s offense more than his defense.

Running the offense for the Tigers is guard Wendell Green, a name familiar to Razorback fans from his 19-point, 5-assist, 4-rebound performance last season. Devo Davis will likely draw the defensive matchup against this 5-foot-11 floor general, but watch for adjustments should tempers flare between the two juniors. Green averages 12.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game this season, though his 3-point accuracy – currently at 26% – is notably down from his career average of 33%.

As a whole, the Tigers have struggled from beyond the arc this year, shooting just 28.9%. Their last two games have been especially brutal, as they’ve combined to shoot 9 of 42 (21%) from long range. Seven Auburn players are shooting worse than 32% from distance while attempting at least one 3-pointer per game. Only Jaylin Williams (39% on 3 attempts/game) and Chris Moore (50% on 1.1 attempts/game) have provided some level of consistent shooting for the Tigers this season.

Moore was recruited by Arkansas in the same recruiting class as Moses Moody, Jaylin Williams, Davonte Davis and K.K. Robinson. 247Sports ranked him as the state’s No. 3 recruit in the class of 2020. Had Moore committed to the Hogs in 2020, he would have helped form one of the best in-state classes in school — and perhaps college basketball — history. Instead, he chose to take his talents to the Plains, where he averages 6.7 points and 2.8 rebounds while playing roughly 18.5 minutes per game.

Allen Flanigan, now a fourth-year senior at Auburn, spent his high school days at Little Rock Parkview while his dad, Wes Flanigan, was an assistant and head coach at UALR from 2015-18. Wes has been an assistant coach at Auburn ever since.

In four games against Arkansas, Flanigan has averaged 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds on 39% shooting, including 22% from beyond the arc. In December of 2020, the then-sophomore guard turned in his lone career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds against the Razorbacks.

Other Tigers playing notable minutes this season:

  • K.D. Johnson: 6-1 | G | Jr. | 21.5 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 1.1 SPG
  • Dylan Cardwell: 6-1 | C | Jr. | 15.1 MPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 BPG
  • Zep Jasper: 6-1 | G | Sr. | 18.3 MPG, 3.4 PPG
  • Yohan Traore: 6-10 | F | Fr. | 12.5 MPG, 2.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG

What to Expect from Arkansas

Nick Smith Jr. missed his third straight game — and ninth overall — against Missouri and remains out indefinitely with “knee injury management,” though Musselman provided a slight update in his Auburn preview press conference Thursday afternoon.

“(Nick) has seen a specialist (in Los Angeles),” Musselman said. “Not to speculate, but (out indefinitely) is probably going to be the case throughout the rest of the month, and then where it is at that point, probably reevaluate. Certainly not the expectation that he’ll play in the next few games.”

In the absence of Smith, freshman guard Joseph Pinion has seemingly earned himself a major role coming off the bench. After getting a combined zero (0) points from their bench players in their 60-57 loss against LSU, Arkansas found life in Pinion’s perimeter shooting against Missouri, as he scored 13 points in 27 minutes — both of which were career highs.

The 6-foot-5 four-star recruit showed off his shooting prowess, going 3 of 6 from behind the arc and knocking down 4 of 7 (57%) overall from the field, providing exactly the spark the Hogs needed after trailing 25-8 early in the first half.

However, it was his willingness to do the dirty work — playing solid defense, diving after loose balls, pursuing offensive rebounds — that will likely earn him extra minutes moving forward, starting Saturday on the road against Auburn.

With only 45 total minutes under his belt prior to the Missouri game, Pinion is still relatively inexperienced, so his shooting might not travel well to his first away game with a prominent role (he was 0 of 1 in 2 minutes at LSU), but his willingness to be more than just a spot-up shooter should still afford him big minutes when one of the starting guards needs a break.

Pinion actually started the second half in place of a struggling Ricky Council, who was 1 of 6 with two turnovers and a minus-18 in the first half. Roughly five minutes into the second half, though, Council checked back in with a vengeance, scoring 21 of his team-high 25 total points while shooting 5 of 9 from the field and 10 of 11 from the charity stripe in the final 15 minutes.

Kamani Johnson joined Pinion as the other key contributor off the bench against Missouri, logging 20 minutes and doing everything in his power to slow down the scorching hot Kobe Brown, who had scored 61 points in his previous two games combined. Johnson — along with Makhi Mitchell for his 15 minutes of action — held Brown in check all night long.

The Razorback big men also forced Brown into foul trouble early in the game, as he picked up two fouls in the first four minutes, plus added to his frustration with an offensive foul drawn by Johnson late in the game.

Auburn presents a different challenge, as the bigs will face a talented transfer in the aforementioned Broome, the Tigers’ leading scorer. However, it’s the 6-foot-10 transfer’s impressive 2.5 blocks per game that might cause havoc on the interior of the Razorback offense.

“Certainly (Broome) and Cardwell are really good shot blockers,” Musselman said. “Excellent around the rim. They’re different players at that center spot, but both bring great qualities to Coach (Bruce) Pearl’s team. In this league, you have to have bigs in order to win at a high level.

“Makhi has done a great job for us defensively, as well as rolling and catching the ball in traffic off our pick-and-roll game and certainly done a great job protecting the rim.”

Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh combined for 12 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and a block on Wednesday against Missouri, but it was Walsh’s interior scoring that halted an 11-0 run by Missouri midway through the first half. This provided the spark Arkansas needed to make a run before the half and make their deficit manageable before the break. Their contributions on the road against Auburn will be crucial for the Hogs this Saturday.

What to Watch in Arkansas vs Auburn

Auburn checks in at No. 16 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating – the second-highest rated team Arkansas has played this year behind only San Diego State, a team the Razorbacks narrowly defeated in overtime in Maui. By comparison, Arkansas ranks No. 4 in the same metric.

As a team, Auburn ranks No. 1 in the country in blocked shots per game at 6.6, thanks in large part to the combined 4.6 of big men Johni Broome and Dylan Cardwell. They’re holding opponents to under 45% from inside the 3-point line, where the Razorbacks have found a majority of their offensive success — 83% of Arkansas’ made field goals have come inside the arc on 56% shooting.

However, the Tigers’ potent defensive attack doesn’t stop on the interior. They’re also holding opponents to 27% from long range on the season, including a combined 9 of 34 (26.5%) in their two SEC games. On its home court, Auburn is holding opponents to 38% field goal shooting on the season.

Arkansas’ strongest team attribute is its defense. Even in their loss to LSU, the Razorbacks held the Tigers to 40% from the field and 24% from behind the arc. It was the Hogs’ offensive struggles — both from an efficiency and turnover standpoint — that cost them the game in Baton Rouge.

Their offensive struggles manifested again in the first half against Missouri before players like Walsh, Pinion and Council provided some much-needed shot making down the stretch. Unfortunately for Arkansas, despite the solid finish against Missouri, offense often doesn’t travel to away games as well as defense.

The Razorbacks’ ability to score and take care of the ball with any semblance of efficiency will dictate whether or not they’re able to beat Auburn on the road. If they can score around 80 points, they’ll have a great shot at stealing one on the road. In fact, Arkansas teams led by Musselman are 36-4 all time when scoring at least 80 points (8-2 on the road). Auburn is 0-1 this season when allowing 80 points, with the lone loss coming in a neutral site game against Memphis by a score of 82-73.

Game Prediction

The Razorbacks will do a good job of rendering the Auburn big men ineffective by forcing a bit of foul trouble and earning free throws – though they will likely continue their struggles from the charity stripe. Joseph Pinion will see his new role continue with 15-plus minutes off the bench to provide some much-needed floor spacing for the Hogs.

The Razorback offense that Hog fans saw at the end of the Missouri game won’t translate quite as well on the road as Auburn’s stifling defensive presence and revengeful hometown crowd will bother the young Razorbacks on the road.

“I think everybody in the country knows that playing a road game at Auburn is as hard as anywhere in the country,” Musselman said. “Coach Pearl has done a great job of creating an environment… That’s a really hard place to play, and the record tells you so. When you win that many games in a row, that’s why it’s one of the hardest buildings to win in in the country.”

However, the Hogs will bring an elite defensive attack of their own, limiting Auburn to below its averages on the Tigers’ home court, but it won’t be enough as Arkansas falls for the second time in three games.

Auburn, 72-68

How to Watch Arkansas vs Auburn

Date: Saturday, Jan. 7

Location: Neville Arena (Auburn, Ala.)

Tipoff Time/TV Schedule: 7:30 p.m. CT (SEC Network)

ESPN BPI: Arkansas has a 51.3% chance to win, favored by 0.3 points.


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