LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs Baylor
Makhel Mitchell, who missed the LSU game with a right foot injury suffered in the second half of the Ole Miss game a week ago, participated in pregame warmups. He was also in the pregame layup lines, which wasn’t the case last game. According to Jon Rothstein, he is available to play in today’s game.
The Razorbacks are a 6.5-point underdog in the matchup, according to BetSaracen.
There’s a decent amount of Arkansas fans at the Ferrell Center, with plenty of red sprinkled in amongst the green throughout the arena.
Arkansas is using the same starting lineup it had against LSU. It’s the first time the Razorbacks haven’t made any changes to the starting five since the Auburn game on Jan. 7.
11:27, 1H – Baylor 16, Arkansas 8
Arkansas got off to a rough offensive start, going just 1 of 4 from the floor with four turnovers before the first media timeout. Davonte Davis – who has played so well of late – has two of those misses and two of the turnovers.
The Razorbacks eventually got a couple of 3s to fall, but they haven’t done much to slow down the Bears. They’ve forced only one turnover and Baylor is shooting 6 of 13 (46.2%).
HALF – Arkansas 33, Baylor 27
Arkansas trailed by as many as 11, but fought back into it and used a 7-0 run to actually tie it up at 20-20.
However, Makhel Mitchell was called for a foul on what looked like a charge. Instead of a turnover, it was a 3-point play that turned into a 5-point possession when Musselman got a technical for expressing his displeasure.
Despite falling behind by five after that, the Razorbacks closed the half on an 11-0 run to take a six-point lead into the locker room.
HALFTIME STATS – Arkansas vs Baylor
11:52, 2H – Baylor 44, Arkansas 44
Baylor has opened the half hot, making 7 of its 11 shots so far. The Razorbacks haven’t been as effective on the other end, but Anthony Black made a tough layup and Ricky Council knocked down a tough mid-range jumper on the baseline.
Council has 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting, while LJ Cryer has 16 and Keyonte George has 14 for Baylor.
FINAL – Baylor 67, Arkansas 64
Baylor grabbed the lead with a 10-0 run that Anthony Black finally snapped with a tough layup with 1:42 remaining. The Bears extended their lead to 7 with a 3-pointer by George with 1:21 left and that was too big of a hole to dig out of.
The Razorbacks pulled within one, but Cryer knocked down a pair of free throws to stretch it back to three. After calling a timeout with 8.8 seconds remaining, Arkansas took a quick two with a layup by Devo Davis.
George went to the line with 4.3 seconds left and made both. Davis was fouled before he could get a shot off with 2.3 seconds left. He went to the line for a 1 and 1, missed the first shot and the ball ended up in Pinion’s hands in the corner, but he missed the corner 3.
FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs Baylor
|#1 – G Keyonte George||#0 – G Anthony Black|
|#4 – G LJ Cryer||#4 – G Davonte Davis|
|#10 – G Adam Flagler||#1 – G Ricky Council IV|
|#0 – F Flo Thamba||#13 – G/F Jordan Walsh|
|#11 – F Jalen Bridges||#15 – F/C Makhi Mitchell|
Arkansas vs Baylor Preview
For the first time since its brutal – but unofficial – 30-point loss to Texas in a preseason exhibition, the Arkansas basketball team is headed back to Texas.
This time, the trip to the Lone Star State is for the Big 12/SEC Challenge and a matchup with No. 17 Baylor that counts for real. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT Saturday and the game will be televised on ESPN.
It will be an extra special homecoming for freshman Anthony Black, who not only went to high school less than 1.5 hours away in Duncanville, Texas, but also has strong family ties to the Bears.
“It’s going to be fun going back (to Texas) to play Baylor,” Black said. “My parents went to Baylor, so that just adds a little bit of edge to me on the game. It’ll be fun to be back in the home state, and hopefully we’ll do better than we did last time when we were in the home state.”
Black can probably thank his parents for his five-star talent. His mom, Jennifer, played soccer at Baylor, while his dad, Terry, starred on the basketball court. The high-flying guard earned first-team All-Big 12 honors as a senior in 2000-01 and was even dubbed the nation’s best dunker by The Sporting News, as his Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame profile notes.
This season, the Bears opened conference play 0-3 before turning their season around with five straight wins. They’re now 15-5 (5-3 in Big 12) with major non-conference wins over UCLA and Gonzaga. Each win in their current streak came against teams in the top 75 of the NET rankings, including Monday’s signature win over Kansas.
The Hogs are hoping to mimic Baylor’s turnaround after a rough 1-5 start to SEC play. They are coming off of their first back-to-back SEC wins of the season — also their first back-to-back wins in general since defeating Bradley and UNC Asheville in the week leading up to Christmas in 2022.
The 60-40 victory over LSU on Tuesday pushed Arkansas to 14-6 (3-5 SEC) on the season. Though trending in the right direction, the double-digit conference wins came against two of the three teams currently tied for last place in the SEC — Ole Miss and LSU.
While Arkansas has taken massive strides on the offensive side of the ball, it’s still far from the proven contender it hoped to be coming into this season. A win Saturday at Baylor — a former Southwest Conference foe — could go a long way in changing that.
“This game is big,” center Makhi Mitchell said. “We’re going to come out as confident as any other team that has played at Baylor. We’re not going to back down… We’re pretty confident going into the game.”
What to Expect from Baylor
Simply put, Baylor has an elite offense. The Bears are No. 2 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric and No. 31 nationally in scoring at 79.4 points per game. Three different players average at least 14 points, making Baylor more difficult to game plan against than a team with one or two clear offensive leaders.
“They’re unbelievable on offense right now,” Arkansas assistant coach Gus Argenal said. “They shoot the 3 as good as any team we’ll play. They get to the free throw line as good as any team we’ll play. They offensive rebound as good as any team we’ll play.”
Keyonte George – a top-10 player in the Class of 2022 on most services – leads the offensive charge with 16.9 points and 3.3 assists per game. He shoots only 38% from the field, but better than 34% from long range on roughly 7.6 attempts per game. He also averages 5.4 free throw attempts thanks to a lethal combination of confidence in his shot and quick dribble moves.
This allows him to score well off the catch, off perimeter dribble moves and when attacking the rim – a similar skillset to Arkansas’ Nick Smith Jr., who remains sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury. Expect Devo Davis, the Razorbacks’ best perimeter defender, to draw this defensive assignment at some point in the game.
Adam Flagler follows George closely in scoring with 16.1 points and leads the team with 5.1 assists per game. He shoots nearly 44% from long range on 6.5 attempts per game. Despite being only 6-foot-3, Flagler leads the Bears in field goal attempts inside the 3-point arc.
The senior guard is one of three remaining members of the 2020-21 National Championship team that defeated Arkansas in the Elite Eight two years ago who play at least 10 minutes per game this season. Flagler tallied 10 points, 3 assists, 4 steals and 1 block in that matchup before scoring 13 points on 50% shooting in the title game. If Musselman opts to throw a different defender at George, Davis will likely be testing his defensive prowess against Flagler.
LJ Cryer, another remaining member of the championship team, rounds out the trio of leading scorers with 14.2 points per game. He also contributes 2.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting just under 40% from behind the 3-point line. Cryer was a freshman in Baylor’s championship run and saw only five total minutes of tournament action – none of which came against Arkansas.
Flo Thamba is the third member of the championship roster that sees significant playing time. In 22.8 minutes per game this season, the 6-foot-10 big man is averaging 5.4 ponts and 5.1 rebounds on nearly 60% shooting from inside the arc. He contributed 4 points and 4 rebounds in Baylor’s tournament win over the Hogs.
Jalen Bridges is only 6-foot-7, but he leads Baylor in rebounding at 5.7 per game. More importantly, he leads the Bears’ elite offensive rebound attack with 2.4 per game. They average nearly 12.7 offensive rebounds per game, good for top 30 in the country. It will be vital for the Razorbacks to rebound as a team. Makhi Mitchell will likely lead that charge, but everyone on the court will need to contribute to win the rebound battle.
Other notable Bears in the regular rotation:
- Langston Love: 6-foot-5, So. | 6.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 33% 3P
- Josh Ojianwuna: 6-foot-10, Fr. | 5.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG
- Dale Bonner: 6-foot-2, Sr. | 4.6 PPG, 3.3 APG, 1.7 SPG
- Caleb Lohner: 6-foot-8, Jr. | 4.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG
As a team, Baylor shoots the ball well from everywhere on the court. The top three players, however, provide a different level of perimeter scoring than the Razorbacks are used to. George, Flagler and Cryer combine to shoot 20 threes per game and hit at just under 39% from distance.
“They are extremely talented,” Argenal said of Baylor’s three star guards. “All three of them can score at all three levels. The one thing that stood out in their last game was their ability to shoot over defenders – not just catch and shoot shots or off the bounce. Our hands are going to be full.”
Arkansas has faced good shooters this season, but having to guard three legitimate weapons at once – especially on their home court – presents a unique challenge for the Razorbacks.
What to Expect from Arkansas
Devo Davis has been playing at an All-SEC level through his last five games. Over that span, he’s averaging 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting 48% from the field, 50% from long range and 82% from the free throw line. If you ignore his 0-of-3 long-range shooting against Vanderbilt, Davis has hit 59% of his 3-pointers in four of his last five games.
Davis has always been a disruptive defender capable of virtually eliminating the best opposing perimeter player from the game script. However, this is the first time in his collegiate career that he has scored in double figures for five consecutive games – and he’s not only reaching double-digits, but has 16-plus points in each of those five games.
He continues to lead the Hogs on both sides of the ball after their brutal offensive start to conference play when it was clear the team was in desperate need of an on-court leader, including 16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals against LSU. Davis will need to continue to be the offensive leader for Arkansas as long as Nick Smith Jr. is sidelined – and perhaps even after his potential return.
As a team, Arkansas seems to have clicked offensively with the emergence of Davis’ consistency. In their last four games, the Hogs have scored 72.3 points on 47% FG, 40% 3P and 71% FT shooting splits. In their four games prior to this stretch, Arkansas put up an abysmal 64.8 points on 40% – 19% – 63% shooting splits.
Role players Joseph Pinion and Jalen Graham seem to be tag-teaming the eighth-man role for the Razorbacks, each providing an offensive spark when their number is called. After tying his season-high with 13 against Ole Miss, Pinion saw only six minutes of action and went 0 of 2 from long range against LSU.
Instead, the matchup seemed to favor the skillset of Jalen Graham. The 6-foot-9 transfer has taken strides as a defensive rebounder, though he still occasionally struggles with turnovers and decision making – partially why he doesn’t see the consistent minutes some fans might be calling for. His offensive skillset, though, has never been in question. He provided another much-needed spark for the Hogs against LSU, scoring an efficient 6 points on 3-of-7 shooting in 17 minutes of action.
Anthony Black continued his stellar play of late with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals on 3 of 5 shooting from 3-point range, while Ricky Council IV again struggled to score against SEC competition – though he did contribute elsewhere on the stat sheet.
Despite an inefficient 10 points, Council contributed 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 1 steal while playing all 40 minutes against LSU. In his last three games, the 6-foot-6 transfer is a combined 9 of 30 (30%) from the field and 1 of 10 from long range. If he is able to get his offensive output back on track, watch out for how explosive the Razorbacks could become.
Makhel Mitchell missed this game due to a foot injury after earning significant minutes in three of his last four games. His brother Makhi, however, played his role to perfection against the Tigers. Along with an impressive 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, Mitchell did all the little things right against LSU.
He set good screens, played active defense and put pressure on the LSU defense with his ability to roll to the rim and score in the paint. Watch for a continued usage bump for both Mitchell twins as Musselman might start leaning more heavily into his size advantage in the paint.
What to Watch: Arkansas vs Baylor
Facing Baylor should provide a difficult, yet manageable, test for the Razorback offense. The Bears offensive attack is impressive, but their defensive numbers have been average at best. They check in at No. 92 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings and have allowed 74.9 points over their last seven games despite going 5-2 in that stretch, and they’re prone to fouling their opponents and sending them to the free throw line.
After hitting its stride offensively in its last few games, Arkansas should be able to continue that hot streak even on the road – especially if an unexpected scorer like Pinion or Graham puts their stamp on the game. Running in transition and generating “easy” points that don’t require an offensive set will be key.
However, the Razorback defense will be put to the toughest test of the season thus far. The Hogs are 1-3 when playing teams in the top 30 of KenPom’s offensive rankings, with their lone win coming at home over Missouri (No. 6). The Bears rank No. 2 in the metric and have averaged 79.6 points since changing their starters seven games ago.
Perhaps the most notable difference between wins and losses for the Hogs is being disruptive on defense without fouling. Outlined below are their stats in a few key categories in wins and losses:
Sure, some of these can be attributed to consistently questionable officiating across college basketball, but the refs are the same for both teams every game. Arkansas can only control what they’re capable of changing, and defending without fouling is something they can adjust.
In its last two wins, Arkansas has averaged only 14.0 fouls and given up an average of 14.5 free-throw attempts – both significant improvements from its five-game stretch prior to beating Ole Miss. The Razorbacks’ ability to contain Baylor on the road without giving up too many free throw attempts could very well decide this game.
In what will be its biggest test of the season so far, Arkansas will show up to compete. Devo Davis will continue his improved shooting while a few other Hogs do enough to stay competitive on the offensive side of the ball – perhaps Ricky Council IV puts his name back in the ring to lead the Hogs in scoring alongside Davis and Anthony Black.
However, the Baylor offensive attack will be in full force in front of its home crowd in this non-conference matchup. Arkansas’ defense, led again by Davis, will be disruptive enough to limit at least two of Baylor’s premiere scorers and force the Bears to look elsewhere offensively. In what could become the turning point of the season, Arkansas picks up a signature win on the road.
How to Watch Arkansas vs Baylor
Date: Saturday, Jan. 28
Location: Ferrell Center (Waco, Texas)
Tipoff Time/TV Schedule: 3 p.m. CT (ESPN)
ESPN BPI: Baylor has a 70.7% chance to win, favored by 5.9 points
Arkansas and Baylor have played just three times over the past three decades, but they used to be conference foes in the old SWC. This Saturday will mark the first time since Feb. 26, 1991, that the game has been played at either campus, as the previous three matchups were a “home-and-home” in Dallas and North Little Rock, plus the aforementioned Elite Eight meeting in Indianapolis.
Even though the Bears won 2 of those 3 games, the Razorbacks still lead the all-time series 96-48, according to HogStats. This will be just the second time Arkansas has ever played a ranked Baylor team, with the Elite Eight matchup being the other.
See Anthony Black’s father treat the rim with impunity here:
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