Razorbacks Ready to Disrespect Their Elders in Trap Game vs UNC Greensboro

Arkansas vs UNC Greensboro, Arkansas basketball
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / UNCG Athletics

LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs UNC Greensboro

Pregame Tidbits

UNC Greensboro leading scorer Keondre Kennedy (15.4 ppg) is not in the starting lineup. He is expected to play today after missing the Spartans’ last two games.

Arkansas is using the same starting lineup as it did Saturday vs. San Jose State

11:56, 1H – UNC Greensboro 7, Arkansas 6

Both teams are struggling mightily on the offensive end. The Razorbacks have missed all seven of their 3-point attempts and are just 3 of 13 from the floor with three turnovers. The Spartans have turned it over just once, but are 3 of 14 from the field and 1 of 6 from deep.

HALF – UNC Greensboro 26, Arkansas 21

The Razorbacks eventually showed some life on offense, but only a little bit. They trailed by as many as 12 before cutting the deficit to three with an 11-2 run. UNCG did score just before the half, though, to make it a five-point margin.

Arkansas is actually shooting slightly better than the Spartans (30.0% to 29.0%), but has nine turnovers to only five by the Spartans. It has also missed all eight 3-point attempts, while UNCG is 4 of 15.

There was a scary moment at the 7:30 mark when Trevon Brazile went down with a knee injury and had to be helped off the floor.

11:51, 2H – UNC Greensboro 41, Arkansas 38

Both teams look a little bit better on offense to start the half. Arkansas actually briefly took the lead on a corner 3 by Anthony Black that capped an 8-0 run – its first lead since early in the second half – but the Spartans answered with a three of their own.

FINAL – Arkansas 65, UNC Greensboro 58

The game was back-and-fourth for a good chunk of the second half, with five lead changes in a span of about six minutes between the 10- and 4-minute mark.

It seemed like Arkansas finally might pull away when Anthony Black knocked down a 3 to put it up five with about three minutes left, but UNCG answered with a 3 of its own to make it a one-possession game again.

Arkansas seemingly put it away when Smith came up with a steal and took it all the way, finishing through contact. His 3-point play put the Hogs up seven with 1:29 remaining. However, Kobe Langley knocked down a clutch 3 with 21.1 seconds remaining to make it a one-possession game again. The Razorbacks eventually iced the win at the free throw line.

FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs UNC Greensboro

Arkansas vs UNC Greensboro Starting Lineups

UNC GreensboroArkansas
#0 – G Keyshaun Langley#0 – G Anthony Black
#3 – G Kobe Langley#3 – G Nick Smith Jr.
#24 – G Dante Treacy#1 – G Ricky Council IV
#4 – F Mohammed Abdulsalam#13 – G/F Jordan Walsh
#33 – F Bas Leyte#15 – F/C Makhi Mitchell

Arkansas vs UNC Greensboro Preview

FAYETTEVILLE — Fresh off their most complete game of the season, in which it turned a five-point halftime lead into a 41-point beatdown of San Jose State, Arkansas basketball now must try to avoid falling victim to a trap game.

The No. 9 Razorbacks (7-1) are welcoming a different Spartan squad, this time from UNC Greensboro, to Bud Walton Arena for their final tune-up before heading to Tulsa for a rematch with Oklahoma. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT Tuesday on the SEC Network.

On paper, UNC Greensboro (4-5) should not pose a serious threat to the Razorbacks in Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday night, as it checks in at No. 176 on KenPom and is No. 242 in the initial NET rankings released Monday.

Meanwhile, Arkansas is coming off its biggest win in terms of margin of victory since Jan. 12, when it crushed Missouri 87-43 in a game that proved to be a turning point in the 2021-22 season. The blowout sparked a nine-game winning streak and was the start of a 14-2 finish to the regular season, laying the foundation for a second straight Elite Eight run.

It would be too easy – perhaps even human nature – for the team to feel comfortable after a massive victory on Saturday, a short three-day turnaround and a big revenge game coming up against Oklahoma the following Saturday.

Keeping his team focused on what should be a subpar opponent sandwiched between a massive win and an important game on the schedule will present head coach Eric Musselman with a challenge he has not yet faced with this young team.

What to Expect from UNC Greensboro

The Spartans of Greensboro will field one of the most veteran squads Arkansas will see all season. In fact, they rank 55th out of 363 Division I teams in experience, according to KenPom — a stark contrast to Arkansas at No. 276.

Four of UNC Greensboro’s seven seniors have been in the program for at least four years, with starting forward Mohammad Abdulsalam playing his fifth season with the Spartans. All six players who have started a game this season are seniors, plus the two players averaging the most minutes per game off the bench are senior guard Kobe Langley and junior forward Mikeal Brown-Jones.

Of course, being older than your opponent doesn’t guarantee a win, but facing a crafty group of veterans only adds to the potential of this being a trap game for the Razorbacks.

Senior guard Keondre Kennedy leads the scoring effort, averaging 15.4 points on 10.9 field goal attempts to go along with 7.3 rebounds per game – all team highs. After missing the last two games, he’s expected to return to action Tuesday night.

He shoots 37.5% from long range on 5.7 attempts per game, a mark that is sure to draw attention from Musselman’s gameplan. Expect a heavy dose of Anthony Black’s perimeter defense in an attempt to slow down Kennedy’s long-range attack.

“He can really score the basketball,” Musselman said. “He can shoot it from three. He’s good in transition. He’s a good rebounder for his size. Obviously, he’s their best offensive player, numbers-wise, so he does change the complexion of the game for them for sure, especially from an offensive standpoint.”

A pair of senior guards in Keyshaun Langley and Dante Treacy round out the backcourt. The two guards combine to score 18.9 points per game on 37% 3-point shooting. Together, the three starting guards combine to shoot 37.3% from long range on more than 15 attempts per game. After that, however, no one else on the roster is shooting above 25%. Expect a concentrated defensive effort on this trio of shooters.

Mohammed Abdulsalam (6-9, 255) and Bas Leyte (6-10, 220) – another pair of seniors – provide the interior presence for the Spartans. They both play just under 23.5 minutes per game, but still manage to combine for 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game on 44% shooting from the field. It’s worth paying attention to whether Musselman attempts to match this duo’s size when they share the court, or if he tries to exploit the potential mismatch with a smaller, quicker power forward like Jordan Walsh.

What to Expect from Arkansas

On Saturday, for the first time all season, Arkansas had all 13 scholarship players available at the same time. Freshman guard Nick Smith Jr. made his official Arkansas debut against Troy last week, but Davonte Davis took some time away from basketball and missed that game.

Saturday against San Jose State was Smith’s first game back without a minutes restriction. He still saw only 24 minutes of action, but that was largely due to the large lead Arkansas opened up roughly 10 minutes into the second half. He posted 16 points, 5 assists and 0 turnovers while shooting 43% from the floor and 60% from behind the arc in his first full game, showing Arkansas basketball fans a glimpse of the lottery-pick talent they’ve been itching to see take the court.

“I’ve been waiting on this moment ever since I made the decision to come here,” Smith told the media after his 16-point outing against San Jose State. “It was great for us as a team, just to have our whole team playing. Last game, (Davis) wasn’t with us, so it’s good to have our whole team playing.”

Davis gave the team an extra pep in their step defensively with his return, though he was held scoreless on only two shot attempts. He tallied three assists, a rebound and a block in his 22 minutes of action.

“I don’t know what it is,” Brazile said after the game when asked about Davis’ return. “He just brings a certain type of leadership to us. He’s got that ‘dawg’ mentality. When he’s in the game we feel more secure defensively just because we know he’s going to bring the energy and he’s going to bring it every night.”

Arkansas will need his leadership again in Tuesday night’s Arkansas vs UNC Greensboro matchup to help it stay focused on the task at hand. The Hogs have the ability to put this game away with ease, but their youth might cost them some points early in the game if they don’t come out ready to play. That’s especially true considering the style of defense the Spartans play.

“I think that their backcourt, No. 1, they create a lot of steals,” Musselman said. “They play very aggressive defense. They’ll reach and gamble and try to create some offense through their defense. … Certainly us taking care of the basketball will be extremely important against UNCG.”

Ricky Council IV still leads the SEC in scoring at 19.8 points per game, but he played his fewest minutes of the season in the blowout victory and scored below 19 points for only the third time all season.

Anthony Black saw a similar dip in his scoring production, failing to reach double digits for only the third time this season as well. Sure, part of this can be attributed to the end of the bench finishing out the final five minutes of the game, but it will be intriguing to see how the two wings adjust their role with the return of both Nick Smith Jr. and Devo Davis to the lineup.

What to Watch in Arkansas vs UNC Greensboro

UNC Greensboro ranks just outside the top 100 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating – a metric in which the Hogs currently rank No. 7 – but they’re holding opponents to a lower 2-point field goal percentage than even the Razorbacks.

On the season, opponents are shooting just 46.8% from inside the arc against the Spartans, while Arkansas has held its opponents to 47.5% from 2-point range. In four wins this season, UNCG has held its opponents below 43% from inside the arc.

On the flip side of the same coin, the Spartans do not defend the 3-point line very well. They have allowed opponents to hit 36% of their long-range attempts, and that number rises to 37.4% in their five losses this season.

These UNCG statistics present two question marks for the Razorbacks. First, can they overcome the tough interior defense of the Spartans? The big man rotation continues to be the most difficult part of Musselman’s job this season given how much depth he has at his disposal.

Jalen Graham stepped up when his number was called on Saturday, providing 11 points and 6 rebounds in only 12 second-half minutes to help spark the Razorback run that put the game away. In the two games prior to the SJSU blowout, Kamani Johnson averaged 25.5 minutes per game and provided a different type of spark on the offensive glass. It’s worth watching who Musselman deploys in the frontcourt against this relatively potent interior defense and whether or not they can score against it.

Secondly, will the Hogs be able to capitalize on the weaker perimeter defense? In their monster performance against San Jose State, Arkansas shot 8 of 13 (62%) from beyond the arc as a team. In the two games prior, the Razorbacks combined to shoot only 21% from distance.

Clearly, the 62% mark is unsustainable, but it’s worth paying attention to whether the Hogs’ hot shooting carries over to Tuesday night — or if they regress toward their season average of 33% and struggle to take advantage of the weak point in UNC Greensboro’s defense.

Game Prediction

Arkansas will come out slow against UNC Greensboro, similar to how it started against SJSU. However, Musselman and his veteran leaders on the team will ensure these particular Spartans don’t hang around for too long. The Hogs will put this game away by 20-plus points, leaning heavily on their ability to force turnovers and score in transition.

Nick Smith Jr. will have another good outing as he plays a season-high in minutes and sets the tone offensively, while Devo Davis shores up the Razorback defense regardless of what the box score shows. The Hogs won’t be able to clear their bench as early as they did against SJSU, but all 13 scholarship players – and perhaps both walk-ons – will see the court for the second straight game.

Arkansas, 82-60

How to Watch Arkansas vs UNC Greensboro

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 6

Location: Bud Walton Arena (Fayetteville, Ark.)

Tipoff Time/TV Schedule: 6 p.m. CT (SEC Network)

ESPN BPI: Arkansas has a 96.4% chance of winning, favored by 21.8 points

Watch Eric Musselman preview the Arkansas vs UNC Greensboro matchup:


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