LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs San Jose State
Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh ended the Hogs’ pregame shoot around by banking in back-to-back half court shots.
After coming off the bench and playing six minutes in his collegiate debut against Troy, Nick Smith Jr. is in the starting lineup for the first time Saturday. He replaces Barry Dunning Jr. in the lineup. Davonte Davis will come off the bench.
11:36, 1H – Arkansas 16, San Jose State 11
Makhi Mitchell scored six of the Razorbacks’ nine points, marking the second straight game they’ve leaned on him early. The other three points came on a 3-pointer by Nick Smith Jr., his first points in an Arkansas uniform.
However, the Spartans were hanging tough, with the score tied at 11. Back-to-back and-one finishes by Trevon Brazile gave Arkansas its first multi-possession lead. He made the first free throw and will be shooting the other when play resumes after the media timeout.
HALF – Arkansas 40, San Jose State 35
San Jose State surged back and actually took a four-point lead on a 3-pointer by Sage Tolbert III with 4:24 left. However, the Razorbacks answered with a 14-3 run that included back-to-back 3s by Smith and Black and an old-fashioned 3-point play by Council.
It looked like Arkansas might have a shot to take a double-digit lead into the half, but some sloppy play in the final 30 seconds allowed the Spartans to close that gap. It would have been worse had they made a couple of free throws with about 5 seconds left. Instead, Council grabbed the rebound and quickly bolted down the floor and got fouled at the rim. His two free throws essentially made it a four-point swing.
HALFTIME STATS – Arkansas vs SJSU
7:46, 2H – Arkansas 77, San Jose State 52
San Jose State managed to get within a possession a couple of times early in the second half before the Razorbacks asserted their dominance. An 8-0 run capped by a Nick Smith 3-pointer gave Arkansas its first double-digit lead of the game with 15:51 left and a 9-0 run later in the half stretched the lead to 22.
After not playing at all in two of the last three games, Jalen Graham got some extended run and made the most of his minutes. He’s got 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 turnover in 6 minutes.
FINAL – Arkansas 99, San Jose State 58
Walk-ons Cade Arbogast and Lawson Blake got to play about the final 2 minutes and Arbogast even made a 3.
FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs SJSU
Starting Lineups – Arkansas vs SJSU
|San Jose State||Arkansas|
|#10 – G Omari Moore – Jr. | 6-6 | 195||#0 – G Anthony Black – Fr. | 6-7 | 198|
|#13 – G Alvaro Cardenas – So. | 6-1 | 180||#3 – G Nick Smith Jr. – Fr. | 6-5 | 185|
|#12 – F Sage Tolbert III – Sr. | 6-8 | 210||#1 – G Ricky Council IV – Jr. | 6-6 | 205|
|#15 – F Trey Anderson – Jr. | 6-7 | 206||#13 – G/F Jordan Walsh – Fr. | 6-7 | 205|
|#5 – C Ibrahima Diallo – Jr. | 7-0 | 220||#15 – F/C Makhi Mitchell – Sr. | 6-9 | 230|
Arkansas vs SJSU Preview
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas basketball fans may have some unpleasant flashbacks when they see San Jose State back in town Saturday afternoon, but luckily for the Razorbacks, Nick Starkel won’t be suiting up — for either team.
Just a few years after handing the Arkansas football team one of its most embarrassing losses in program history, a game in which Starkel infamously threw five interceptions and then switched sides the following season, the basketball Spartans will visit Bud Walton Arena.
Chad Morris is long gone and Eric Musselman will lead his No. 11 Razorbacks onto the hardwood to face a 6-2 San Jose State squad in a game that projects to end much more favorably for Arkansas.
Last week, the Razorbacks had an encouraging showing at the Maui Invitational, going 2-1 with their only loss coming against an experienced Creighton squad that was ranked No. 10 but has since moved up to No. 7 in the AP Poll. In its first game back home from the event, Arkansas came away with a hard-fought 74-61 victory over Troy.
Now the Hogs will turn their attention toward an experienced San Jose State team as they look to avenge the football team from four seasons ago. The contest is scheduled to tipoff at 3 p.m. CT Saturday and will be televised on SEC Network.
What to Expect from San Jose State
The Spartans are led by a pair of juniors in their starting lineup: guard Omari Moore (6-foot-6) and forward Sage Tolbert (6-foot-8). Moore paces the team in scoring with 13.4 points and 4.4 assists per game on 42% FG shooting. He’s a strong three-level scorer that leads the team in field goal attempts and is a clear focal point for the offense.
“They have a star player in Moore,” Eric Musselman said. “He can make threes, can get to the basket. He’s a really good one-on-one player.”
Tolbert leads the team in rebounding with 8.0 per game to go along with 10.3 points on 59% shooting. The two wing players combine for nearly 21% of the shot attempts for the Spartans, so expect a heavy focus on them in Musselman’s defensive gameplan.
The entire starting five for the Spartans consists of juniors and sophomores, making them a relatively experienced group, as can often be the case for mid-major programs. They are a patient team that likes to work inside-out, utilize on-ball and off-ball screens, and take their time in finding their most favorable mismatch offensively rather than trying to run in transition.
As a team, the Spartans shoot just under 36% from long range, including five players shooting 38% or better on at least 1.1 attempts per game. Sophomore forward Tibet Gorener has been arguably the Spartans’ most prolific 3-point shooter in terms of both volume and efficiency. The Arizona transfer stands at 6-foot-7 and has hit nearly 39% of his 4.5 long-range attempts while coming off the bench this season.
Other shooters of note for the Spartans:
- Trey Anderson (6-foot-6 guard) shoots 48% on 3.6 attempts
- MJ Amey (6-foot-5 guard) shoots 44% on 3.0 attempts
- Sage Tolbert (6-foot-8 forward) shoots 44% on 1.1 attempts
- Alvaro Cardenas Torre (6-foot-1 guard) shoots 33% on 5.0 attempts
- Garrett Anderson (6-foot-5 guard) shoots 40% on 2.0 attempts
In seven games this season, Arkansas has held its opponents to 27% shooting from beyond the arc, including four games of holding its opponent below 25% from long range. Creighton has been the only team that exploited the Razorbacks’ perimeter defense, shooting 7 of 14 in their victory in Maui, though that No. 7 ranked Bluejay squad is already drawing national attention as one of the best starting lineups in the country. Expect Arkansas to continue its stellar defense against mid-major opponents and hold the Spartans below the 27% mark.
Arkansas Basketball Status Update
Freshman phenom Nick Smith Jr. made his highly-anticipated debut for the Razorbacks on Monday against Troy, though it didn’t come with the fireworks some expected. The team has taken a cautious approach to bringing Smith back from his unspecified knee injury, so the five-star guard played only six first-half minutes and went 0 of 2 from the field before reclaiming his spot on the bench for the remainder of the game.
“To my knowledge, there’s no swelling, which is a great thing,” Eric Musselman said before Thursday’s practice. “He’s 100% back in the fold practice-wise, and I’m sure that the doctor will tell me Saturday if there is a (minutes) restriction. I have not talked to them yet just because I know we still have two days of prep work.”
Smith has been an energizing presence on the bench throughout his time rehabbing his knee injury and looks visibly anxious to get back on the court at times. Junior big man Kamani Johnson compares Smith to a caged dog ready to be released, telling reporters, “You can’t keep a dog in a cage for too long, you’re going to have to let him out. He’s going to be out soon for sure.”
The absence of Arkansas guard Davonte Davis also drew unexpected attention Monday night. He didn’t play at all in the second half of the Hogs’ final game in Maui against San Diego State and then Musselman released a statement that he would be “taking some time away from basketball” prior to the Troy game.
It didn’t take long for the junior leader to return to action, though, as he was seen participating in practice just two days after his first missed game of the season and released the following statement shortly after.
Musselman said Davis brought “infectious energy” to Wednesday’s practice and that everybody was excited about him rejoining the team.
His return to practice midway through the week suggests he’ll be ready for his usual workload in the matchup with San Jose State on Saturday, marking the first time that Davis and Smith will share the court in a regular-season game for the Hogs. The backcourt will finally have all three ball-handling guards available – with a potential minutes restriction for Smith – and will be interesting to watch.
What to Expect from Arkansas
Ricky Council IV continues to impress, both on the stat sheet and above the rim on fast breaks. He finished Monday’s game with a season-high 27 points, pushing him into first in scoring in the SEC at 20.1 points per game. His 27-point outing against Troy was the second-highest total of his career behind a 31-point outing during his time with Wichita State.
Though he put on a masterful performance down the stretch, scoring in a variety of ways to seal a Razorback victory, it was this ferocious fast-break slam late in the game that garnered national attention on social media.
The most important part of Council’s game for Arkansas so far this season has been his ability to step up and score when the Hogs desperately need a basket.
“We need points from him in crunch time,” said Musselman. “(Council) has done a great job of delivering.”
Anthony Black once again showed off his versatility against Troy, tallying 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block while playing all 40 minutes – due in large part to the absence of Davis and limited action of Smith. How his role shifts over the next couple of games will be perhaps the most intriguing change for the Razorbacks as Smith fully returns to action.
Makhi Mitchell kept the Hogs alive early in their dog-fight on Monday night, grabbing several offensive rebounds and put backs in the first half to keep Arkansas within striking distance. He finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds – 4 of which were offensive – to go along with 3 blocks in 29 minutes of action.
His activity, along with the other Razorback big men, will be a key to the game against San Jose State.
The Spartans allow only 27.3 total rebounds per game to their opponents, the second fewest in the nation this season. This can be largely attributed to their slow pace of play leading to less overall shot attempts, but they still rank first in fewest defensive rebounds allowed and fall just inside the top 50 in fewest offensive rebounds allowed.
Arkansas’ forward rotation has been a carousel of sorts with different bigs getting an opportunity game-to-game. Kamani Johnson is the latest benefactor of this ever-changing rotation, putting forward two big games in a row, including a game-tying offensive rebound and putback at the end of regulation against San Diego State. Johnson believes he and the other Razorback bigs have done a good job of staying patient and working together to hold down the paint for their team.
“I think we’re doing good overall as a big group,” Johnson said. “We all realize we’re all going to have games, and we’re all going to be needed. Everybody is going to have their moment. We’ve been preaching to each other to stay ready, stay in the moment.”
Spartan forward Sage Tolbert (6-foot-8) often acts as the rim-runner and main rebounder for his team, so the Hogs will likely look to overwhelm the Spartans inside with their apparent size advantage, regardless of who’s turn it is to patrol the paint on Saturday.
What to Watch in Arkansas vs SJSU
In the infamous football loss to SJSU back in 2019, turnovers were the difference in the ball game for Arkansas. Quarterback Nick Starkel threw five interceptions compared to the Spartans’ lone interception in a game the Razorbacks lost by only 7 points.
Now, with the two schools meeting on the hardwood, the turnover battle and pace of game could once again be the deciding factor – this time heavily favoring the Razorbacks on paper.
Out of 363 teams listed on sports-reference.com, San Jose State ranks 336th in pace of play this season. The Spartans essentially average 65 possessions per 40 minutes of game time. By comparison, Arkansas ranks 52nd and averages roughly 73.5 possessions per 40 minutes.
“Coach (Tim) Miles does a really good job of controlling tempo and controlling the game from a pace standpoint,” Musselman said when asked about his next opponent’s incredibly slow pace of play. “They will opportunistically run, but it’s a team that execution in the half-court is important to them.”
Perhaps explained by their tendency to slow the game down and be patient in their offense, San Jose State commits only 12.4 turnovers per game on the season and ranks dead last in turnovers forced per game, averaging only 7.5 through 8 games — including only 3.0 steals per game as a team. By comparison, Arkansas forces 19.4 turnovers per game with almost 10.5 steals per game.
In KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings, San Jose State ranks 261st. Arkansas checks in at No. 6 in the same metric. The Razorbacks’ ability to take control of the pace of the game and handedly win the turnover battle could be the difference between a slow, hard-fought game and a smooth, clear-the-benches victory.
Game Prediction – Arkansas vs SJSU
Devo Davis will make his return and excel in a complimentary role beside the ballhandling of Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr. – who should also see an increase in his minutes. The trio of guards along with Ricky Council IV will give Arkansas basketball fans their first taste of what this team could actually become by March.
The Razorbacks will control the pace of this game early, especially as they get one step closer to having all of their ballhandlers fully available. San Jose State’s plethora of shooters will keep the game within striking distance early into the second half, but Arkansas will ultimately pull away and cover the projected 19.8-point spread set by ESPN’s BPI.
How to Watch Arkansas vs SJSU
Date: Saturday, Dec. 3
Location: Bud Walton Arena (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Tipoff Time/TV Schedule: 3 p.m. CT (SEC Network)
ESPN BPI: Arkansas has a 95.5% chance of winning, favored by 19.8 points
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