KO by TOs: Razorbacks Rampage over Rams

Makhi Mitchell, Arkansas vs Fordham
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — A big second-half run finally gave Arkansas basketball some breathing room and it was able to cruise to its second win of the season Friday night.

It was still an 11-point game at the first media timeout after halftime, but the Razorbacks used a quick 8-0 spurt to put the game away and eventually beat Fordham 74-48 inside Bud Walton Arena.

Led by 30 forced turnovers and Ricky Council IV’s 15-point, 7-assist performance, Arkansas improved to 2-0 on the season. The Rams dropped to 1-1.

Below is how it happened:

Postgame Press Conferences – Arkansas vs Fordham

Live Updates – Arkansas vs Fordham

11:26, 1H – Arkansas 9, Fordham 7

It’s been a sluggish start for both teams. Fordham actually scored the first five points of the game, marking the first time Arkansas has trailed this season after leading from start to finish in the opener, but the Razorbacks are now on a 7-0 run to take the lead.

However, there have been 12 combined turnovers and the teams are shooting a combined 28% from the floor (Arkansas is 4 of 14, Fordham is 3 of 11).

Jordan Walsh has four points for the Razorbacks, while Antrell Charlton has four for the Rams.

HALF – Arkansas 32, Fordham 21

That run eventually reached 11-0 before Fordham finally scored. About a minute later, the Rams left Anthony Black wide open on the wing and he knocked down Arkansas’ first 3-pointer of the night, more than 11 minutes into the game.

Fordham simply can’t handle the length of Arkansas’ defense. The Razorbacks turned up the pressure and ended up forcing 20 turnovers in the first half, leading to 22 points. However, one one came in the final 3.5 minutes.

The lead reached 19 at one point – thanks to a stretch in which Arkansas outscored them 28-4 over a 14-minute span – before the Rams kind of got things together.

Ricky Council IV leads the way with 9 points for the Razorbacks, while Anthony Black and Makhi Mitchell have 6 apiece.

HALFTIME STATS – Arkansas vs Fordham

11:34, 2H – Arkansas 50, Fordham 31

The early going of the second half was highlighted by an impressive fast break dunk by Ricky Council IV. It was made possible by some really solid defense by Davonte Davis, who forced Fordham into a bad shot, grabbed the rebound and immediately pushed the ball up the floor.

The Razorbacks couldn’t create any separation from the Rams over the first five minutes or so, though.

With a pair of free throws at the 15:26 mark, Anthony Black has reached double figures for the first time in his career. However, it still hasn’t been a great shooting night for the freshman, as he’s just 3 of 8 at this point – including 1 of 6 from beyond the arc.

That started an 8-0 run that finally gave the Razorbacks some breathing room. Fordham snapped the run, but Arkansas answered back with an impressive alley-oop from Council to Brazile. Brazile appeared to hit his elbow on the rim.

FINAL – Arkansas 74, Fordham 48

The lead hovered around 20 for a long stretch and got as high as 26 – which it ended up finishing at.

Jalen Graham got his first playing time with the Razorbacks and made some nice moves around the basket, but also committed several fouls on the other end.

It wasn’t until a 3-pointer with 3:53 left that Fordham finally eclipsed 40 points for the game.

Musselman emptied the bench over the final three minutes or so, giving Graham, Kamani Johnson and the freshman trio of Joseph Pinion, Barry Dunning Jr. and Derrian Ford some extended run. The walk-ons actually got some time, too.

Fordham somewhat cleaned up the turnovers in the second half, but still had another 10. That gave the Rams a whopping 30 in the game, leading to 30 points for Arkansas.

FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs Fordham

Full Game Highlights

Starting Lineups – Arkansas vs Fordham

#3 – G Darius Quisenberry – Gr. | 6-2 | 188#0 – G Anthony Black – Fr. | 6-7 | 198
#10 – G Kyle Rose – Jr. | 6-4 | 192#4 – G Davonte Davis – Jr. | 6-4 | 185
#24 – G Antrell Charlton – Jr. | 6-5 | 205#1 – G Ricky Council IV – Jr. | 6-6 | 205
#2 – F Khalid Moore – Gr. | 6-7 | 208#13 – G/F Jordan Walsh – Fr. | 6-7 | 205
#30 – F Abdou Tsimbila – Jr. | 6-9 | 245#15 – F/C Makhi Mitchell – Sr. | 6-9 | 230

Mitchell Twins Seek Revenge vs Fordham

**This is the BoAS preview piece that ran before the game**

FAYETTEVILLE — It may be an unfamiliar foe to most Arkansas basketball fans, but Fordham carries a little more weight than a typical non-conference opponent for a pair of Razorbacks.

The Mitchell twins – Makhi and Makhel – will be looking for revenge when the Rams visit Bud Walton Arena for a 7 p.m. CT tipoff Friday, as they were on the wrong end of a 61-55 matchup with Fordham while at Rhode Island last February.

“I didn’t want to say it, but yeah, they got us,” Makhi reluctantly told reporters when asked about the game this week. “It was kind of weird, the scheme they had going into that game – it was kind of like a tandem, trying to prevent me and my brother from scoring. … the focus was on us. Kind of mad about it, so that’s why I’m really excited for this game, so we can show what we can do as a team and just to get a win because of last year.”

Fordham successfully slowed down Makhi, as he started and tallied just 3 points on 25% shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block in 19 minutes, but his brother, Makhel, still managed to shoot 56% in a 13-point, 9-rebound, 4-block performance.

Thankfully for them, the Mitchell twins will have an abundance of help this time around, though a surprise announcement Monday afternoon left the Hogs without their star freshman Nick Smith Jr. in their season opener against North Dakota State. The knee injury is expected to keep him out Friday, as well.

His absence, however, didn’t seem to slow down the new-look Razorbacks too much as they cruised to a 76-58 victory on their home court, narrowly missing out on covering the 21.5-point spread. They now turn their attention to Fordham, which is coming off of a season-opening win of its own, beating Dartmouth 88-74.

What to Expect from Fordham

Of the 11 Fordham players who saw the court in their Monday night victory, six of them were juniors or seniors – including the entire starting five. These six players soaked up 78% of the available minutes for the Rams and combined for only eight total turnovers.

Senior guard Darius Quisenberry (6-1, 188) led the way with 20 points while shooting 37.5% (3 of 8) from long range. It wasn’t a surprising performance considering he averaged 16.2 points last season and has scored 1,654 total points in his career.

“Quinsenberry is their star player,” Makhi Mitchell said of the fifth-year senior. “He’s really good, but our defensive schemes are going to be the same – high hands and all the techniques that coach taught us over the summer.” 

“It starts with (Quisenberry), who is an all-league player,” head coach Eric Musselman added. “He can really hit threes, he’s really good in one corner.”

Quisenberry was followed closely in scoring by another fifth-year senior in Georgia Tech transfer forward Khalid Moore (6-7, 200), who put up 18 points and 7 rebounds while shooting 73% from the field. The former Yellow Jacket averaged only 4.4 points per game during his time in Atlanta but shined in his season debut with the Rams.

“You’re talking about a player that has started close to 100 games in the ACC with Georgia Tech,” Musselman said of the Fordham forward. “We have our work cut out for us, because Moore is probably their second-best player and a guy that we have to have great respect for.”

Moore is joined in the frontcourt by 6-foot-8 junior Abdou Tsimbila, who tallied 6 points and 6 rebounds against Dartmouth. That makes this duo considerably smaller than the 6-foot-10 twin towers Arkansas faced Monday night against North Dakota State.

It will be worth paying attention to whom Arkansas basketball head coach Eric Musselman deploys against this smaller frontcourt, though Makhi Mitchell claims that no other big man can defend on the perimeter as well as he can.

Considering these two big men combined to shoot 0 of 2 from long range, with both attempts coming from Moore, it’s likely that Musselman will stick to his two-big lineup and trust their versatility rather than deploy a more wing-oriented lineup – something he could experiment with against better shooting big men.

Two other players scored in double-figures for the Rams in their season-opener and both are junior wings. Antrell Charlton (6-5, 205) scored 16 points while making 2 of 4 from beyond the arc and Kyle Rose (6-3, 185) contributed 11 points and made both of his 3-point attempts.

What to Expect from Arkansas

Coming into Friday’s matchup, both Mitchell brothers have experience against the Rams, but only one saw action in the Razorbacks’ first game of the season. Makhi started and played just 20 minutes due to picking up four fouls, but he still managed to score 8 points and lead the team with 3 steals.

Makhel Mitchell didn’t see the court despite not carrying an injury designation. When asked about his brother’s playing time, Makhi noted that they’re both “trusting the coaching staff and letting them handle all of that.”

“They’ve got our best interest at heart,” Makhi Mitchell said. “He’ll get his opportunity, and once he does he’ll make the best of it.”

Likely without Nick Smith Jr. again (more on that below), Arkansas’ offensive game plan will probably flow through a trio of experienced Razorbacks who stepped up offensively in the opener. Ricky Council IV led the scoring charge with 22 points on 64% shooting in his Razorback debut – including a rare reverse poster jam.

Trevon Brazile, however, stole the show with his monster performance across the stat sheet. He tallied new career highs in points (21) and rebounds (12) on his way to his first career double-double while also shooting 50% (3 of 6) from long range and recording a block and an assist in 32 minutes of action.

Davonte Davis followed closely behind with 18 points of his own on 43% shooting to go along with six rebounds, two steals and a block while playing a team-high 39 minutes, though he also committed five of the team’s 11 turnovers.

“I thought he played really good at times and sometimes Devo-like where he tried to make spectacular plays when just the simple play will do,” Musselman said postgame. “When your team only has 11 (turnovers) and one guy has five, that has to get cleaned up.

“He’s our most experienced player. We need him to control the game and limit turnovers – which he’s perfectly capable of other than when he tries to make something happen out of nothing.”

How Davis settles into this leadership role – especially while Smith remains sidelined – will be an X-factor for the Hogs moving forward.

Anthony Black has shined as the primary facilitator early in the season for Arkansas, though he doesn’t always light up the scoreboard.

“Anthony – I don’t think he’s going to be a 20-point scorer every night, but he’s the type of guy that affects the game without you even knowing,” Ricky Council said after the Razorbacks’ win over North Dakota State.

Arkansas Basketball Injury Updates

Though it hasn’t officially been announced, it seems likely that Nick Smith Jr. will miss his second straight game to start the season.

The UA announced in a press release Monday afternoon that the star freshman is “going through right knee management and is being withheld for precautionary measures” and that there is no timetable for his return. Musselman said he’s “day-to-day” on Wednesday.

“He’s not going to practice today, he’s not going to practice tomorrow, so I would anticipate he’s not going to play,” Musselman said. “The anticipation right now is that we have to worry about trying to get these other guys that did play as close to being healthy as possible.”

Among the “other guys” Musselman referred to, Ricky Council IV is dealing with an elbow injury, Trevon Brazile rolled his ankle and Anthony Black had to go to the locker room at one point in the opener before returning to the floor.

“We’re banged up right now,” Musselman said before Wednesday’s practice. “How it looks over the next 48 hours before Friday’s game, I don’t know. I know that we’re down 3-4 guys today in practice.”

Arkansas vs Fordham: What to Watch For

Arkansas held North Dakota State to only 34% from the field and 24% from behind the 3-point line. Musselman noted that a team goal was to hold the Bison to five or fewer 3-pointers, which they achieved (NDSU shot 5 of 21 from long range).

However, despite only 63% of their overall field goal attempts coming from inside the arc, the Bison managed to draw 19 fouls on Arkansas and earn 23 trips to the free throw line, matching the free throw attempts by the Razorbacks, whose game plan was primarily designed around attacking the rim.

Jordan Walsh in particular was limited by foul trouble, fouling out after only 18 minutes of on-court action – most of which came in loose-ball scenarios. Musselman noted postgame that he wasn’t sure how specifically to help Walsh with this particular issue that cropped up against North Dakota State, but said they’d focus on understanding when he can and can’t gamble.

Fordham doesn’t possess the same level of size or physicality that the Bison brought to the court, but they took more shots inside the arc in its last outing and shot 71% from the free throw line on 14 attempts. 

Much of Arkansas’ success over the last two seasons has come from stellar defense and forcing turnovers – it forced 15.1 and 14.8 in the last two seasons before forcing 14 in its season-opening win on Monday night.

However, this aggressive strategy comes with the inherent risk of foul trouble, which then becomes exponentially more harmful with Musselman’s tendency to play fewer players game-to-game than most collegiate coaches. Watch for adjustments to be made on the defensive side of the ball – either from a scheme or execution standpoint – that will allow Arkansas to continue their aggressive play while limiting foul trouble.

Arkansas vs Fordham Prediction

The Rams come into this season with a talented roster full of experienced players, but they don’t quite have the guns to compete in a shootout with the Hogs. Arkansas will flex its defensive muscles against a team that shot 8 of 20 from beyond the arc in their first game, holding them below 33% from distance.

Without their projected leading scorer for a second straight game, the Hogs will look for offense by committee, once again leaning on the experience of players like Davis, Brazile, and Council.

“When someone as offensively dynamic as Nick isn’t in uniform, somebody else is going to get an opportunity,” Musselman said. “The shot distribution is going to go to other people.”

Walsh will make a concerted effort to correct his foul trouble from the last game, freeing him up to play a more prominent role in his second collegiate game.

Fordham will trail by a respectable deficit into halftime before falling short to the talent on the other side of the ball, though Arkansas still doesn’t quite cover the spread.

Arkansas, 72-55

How to Watch Arkansas vs Fordham

Date: Friday, Nov. 11

Location: Bud Walton Arena (Fayetteville, Ark.)

Tipoff Time / TV Schedule: 7:00 p.m. CT (SEC Network-Plus)

Announcers: Brett Dolan and Manuale Watkins

ESPN BPI: Arkansas has a 95.1% chance of winning, favored by 20.5

Odds/Betting Line: Arkansas, -20.5 (BetSaracen)


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