Against Creighton, Harassing Hogs Can Make Former Top Target Regret His Choice

Arkansas vs Creighton, Baylor Scheierman, Maui Invitational
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Brian Spurlock/KemperLesnik

LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs Creighton

HALF – Creighton 40, Arkansas 34

The Razorbacks didn’t lead at all in the first half. Creighton shot a scorching 54.8% from the field, including 5 of 10 (50%) from beyond the arc.

Coming off a breakout performance against Louisville, Anthony Black is having another sensational game for Arkansas. He has 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal at halftime. Mekhi Mitchell was limited to only 3 minutes in the first half thanks to a couple of early fouls.

Creighton led by as many as 12 points with 1:43 left in the half, but Arkansas scored the last six points to cut it to a six-point deficit. The last two points came on an impressive lob from Black to Trevon Brazile for a dunk in the closing seconds.

HALFTIME STATS – Arkansas vs Creighton

12:09, 2H – Creighton 56, Arkansas 55

The Razorbacks turned up the defensive pressure early in the second half and used it to go on a run. It included a spectacular pass from Black to Council for a fast break layup. A little bit later, Council knocked down a 3 to give Arkansas its first lead of the game with about 16 minutes left.

Council hit another 3 to give Arkansas a two-point lead a few minutes later, but Musselman – or someone on the Arkansas bench – received a technical a couple possessions later. That was part of a back-and-forth stretch when the lead changed hands several times.

FINAL – Creighton 90, Arkansas 87

Arkansas managed to tie it up with 1:32 left, but that was the last time it was tied. It was a chaotic finish that ultimately ended with a half court heave by Anthony Black, which wasn’t particularly close. The only reason that was even possible is because Black made a miraculous 3-pointer with a couple of seconds left that pulled the Razorbacks within one.

FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs Creighton

Arkansas vs Creighton Preview

For the first time since its famous showdown with Kentucky on Super Bowl Sunday in 1995, the Arkansas basketball team is set to play in a top-10 matchup during the regular season Tuesday night.

Fresh off a beatdown of Louisville, the No. 9 Razorbacks will shift their focus to No. 10 Creighton in the winner’s bracket of the Maui Invitational. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.

The Bluejays are coming off an impressive 76-65 win over No. 21 Texas Tech in which their offense thrived. As expected, they are dangerous from beyond the arc, shooting 9 of 20 to pull away from the Red Raiders’ great defense.

Following the game, ESPN personalities Jordan Cornette and Sean Farnham agreed that Creighton boasts the most productive starting five players in the country. The Hogs’ depth should play to their advantage in a matchup where both teams will clash in the semifinals on the second of three consecutive days of play.

In the first round, the Razorbacks put together a solid performance, taking down a struggling Louisville team 80-54. The Hogs relied on their athleticism and the play of star freshman Anthony Black to drop the Cardinals to 0-4 for the first time since 1940.

Arkansas is now hoping for a result similar to that aforementioned 1995 matchup with Kentucky, which it won 94-92 on a Scotty Thurman jumper in the closing seconds. It won’t be easy against Creighton’s veteran-laden squad.

“I think that both teams will come out of tomorrow and have film and stuff to continue to get better,” head coach Eric Musselman said. “They’re a great team. They’re really well coached. They have some older guys. We play a fairly young roster, so it will be a challenge going up against fifth-year seniors.

“But I think that our team has continued to grow and we knew coming into this tournament that we were going to have some really challenging games. Obviously that’s going to be a real challenge to play Creighton.”

At this point in the season, it is always hard to judge the pertinence of advanced analytics with a comparatively tiny sample size to what metrics can unpack later in the season. Still, it’s worth considering what Kenpom and other data-based analytics have to say this early on.

So let’s look at what the analytics and intuition tell us to expect: 

When Arkansas Has the Ball

Head coach Eric Musselman has had great success since taking over the program in 2019. During his first three campaigns, here’s how the Razorbacks finished the season ranked in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings: 

  • 2022: 53rd
  • 2021: 43rd
  • 2020: 55th

While the offense has always trailed the defense under Musselman, this year’s squad is arguably the most talented with the ball. This will be the first Arkansas opponent with a defense ranked in the top 100, though, as Creighton checks in at No. 78.

If the Razorbacks want a chance in this one, they will need to score and limit transition opportunities for a dangerous Creighton offense. Even without five-star freshman Nick Smith Jr., the Hogs have ample weapons to score. Early on, they have relied on Wichita State transfer Ricky Council, who is averaging over 17.8 points. On Monday night, it was true freshman Anthony Black who led Arkansas in scoring with an impressive 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting and added six assists.

Arkansas will need to take better care of the basketball than it has to this point and find shots closer to the rim. Early against Louisville, ESPN color commentator Jay Bilas could be heard pleading with the Razorbacks to stop settling for outside shots as they got off to a slow start. Their ability to penetrate the slower Creighton defense will also open up opportunities on the perimeter. Based on the analytics, the Hogs will need to crack 70 points to position themselves to advance to the finals of the Maui Invitational.

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When Creighton Has the Ball

This one could be decided by how each team executes when the Bluejays have the ball — with both teams relying on their respective strength: the 3rd-ranked Razorback defense vs. the 14th-ranked Creighton offense, per KenPom.

Creighton basketball coach Greg McDermott’s starting five can score from top to bottom. In their previous matchup against Texas Tech, all five starters played 30-plus minutes and broke double digits. The bench managed just 4 points.

Look for the talented group to spread the court on offense and work for perimeter shots. On both ends of the floor, Arkansas will look to neutralize former transfer target Baylor Scheierman, who had the Razorbacks in his top five schools after leaving South Dakota — where he averaged more than 15 points in consecutive seasons in the Summit League.

Given the Achilles heel of this Razorback team appears to be outside shooting (at least when Anthony Black isn’t en fuego), it would have been interesting to see him play alongside the haul of impressive transfers who did decide to come to Fayetteville.

Now at Creighton, Scheierman is off to a hot start, averaging just shy of a double-double with 10.5 points with 8.8 rebounds per game. Surprisingly agile at 6-foot-7, he shoots over 40% from deep. The Razorbacks, however, have multiple options defensively to slow down the senior guard who may end up making Scheierman regret his decision to not go to Arkansas if they treat him like they have other top opposing shooters so far this season.

Not to be forgotten at the guard position is talented sophomore Ryan Nembhard. The 6-foot Monteverde product is coming off an impressive freshman campaign in which he earned Big East Freshman Player of the Year honors. Arkansas basketball fans should be excited to see how Nembhard fares against their young star, Anthony Black.

Down low, Creighton certainly does not lack size. Ryan Kalkbrenner stands at a formidable 7-foot-1 and poses problems on both ends of the court. The junior big man is averaging more than 16 points and has picked up 1.3 blocks per game on the other end of the floor.

Musselman will look to an armada of transfer big men to combat Kalkbrenner. In particular, the Mitchell twins — Makhi and Makhel — have come on strong and certainly have the strength and talent to compete down low. If the Hogs want to advance to the finals, they will need to execute on both ends of the floor. 

Prediction: Arkansas vs Creighton — Maui Invitational Semifinals

Kenpom: 71-69

Haslametrics: 71.82-69.17

Looking at the numbers, the only conclusion that can truly be drawn is that we should have a close one at the Maui Invitational. With any young team like Arkansas, it is vital that they get out to a quick start and limit large runs. Look for the Razorbacks to rely on their athleticism to pose a solid defensive threat even against a strong Creighton team. If the Bluejays get hot from deep, though, look out. Still, Best of Arkansas Sports sees Arkansas pulling out a tight win.

Arkansas, 68-66

How to Watch Arkansas vs Creighton

Date: Tuesday, Nov. 22

Location: Lahaina Civic Center (Maui, Hawaii)

Tipoff Time/TV Schedule: 7 p.m. CT (ESPN)

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