Arkansas vs Louisville: Extra Edge Thanks to Calipari’s Hot Headedness

Eric Musselman, Kenny Payne, Arkansas vs Louisville
photo credit: Nick Wenger / Kentucky Athletics

LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs Louisville

7:29, 1H – Arkansas 19, Louisville 13

The Razorbacks’ stellar defense continued in Hawaii, holding Louisville scoreless for the first 5.5 minutes of the game. However, they couldn’t make much happen on the other end of the floor. The issue appeared to be settling for 3s and long jumpers instead of their usual plan of attacking the basket.

Once it finally started attacking the basket, Arkansas managed to put some more points on the board – on dunks/layups and by getting to the free throw line. It still settled on a few possessions, though, and that allowed Louisville to hang in the game.

HALF – Arkansas 36, Louisville 28

Anthony Black’s second 3-pointer of the game forces Louisville to call a timeout. After play resumed, Ricky Council IV threw down an impressive alley oop from Davonte Davis.

Turnovers by the Razorbacks and 3-pointers by Louisville allowed the Cardinals to dig back into the game. A 3-pointer by Jordan Walsh snapped a 10-2 run by Louisville and gave Arkansas its first bucket in nearly 3.5 minutes.

There was a chaotic end to the first half. Black turned the ball over for what looked like a fast break opportunity, but he got the ball back and threw it down the floor for a wide open dunk by Davis. However, that was with enough time on the clock for El Ellis to go coast-to-coast for a buzzer-beating layup.

HALFTIME STATS – Arkansas vs Louisville

7:34, 2H – Arkansas 57, Louisville 42

Anthony Black’s sensational game has continued in the second half. With more than 13 minutes left, he converted a 3-point play to give him 20 points – two more than he had the first three games combined.

Before the under-8 media timeout, Black threw a perfect alley oop to Makhel Mitchell, who is also playing his best game yet in an Arkansas uniform.

FINAL – Arkansas 80, Louisville 54

It was still a 10-point game midway through the second half, but the Razorbacks went on a 17-0 run to put the game away.

In the middle of that run, a fast break dunk by Makhel Mitchell prompted a timeout by Louisville with 6:09 left and Arkansas up 61-42. That proved to be the start of a chaotic stretch in which the Razorbacks had five straight dunks and six in a span of seven buckets – with the seventh being an open layup by Black.

FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs Louisville

Starting Lineups – Arkansas vs Louisville

#3 – G El Ellis#0 – G Anthony Black
#1 – F Mike James#4 – G Davonte Davis
#5 – F Brandon Huntley-Hatfield#1 – G Ricky Council IV
#21 – F Sydney Curry#13 – G/F Jordan Walsh
#24 – F Jae’Lyn Withers#15 – F/C Makhi Mitchell

Extra Edge Thanks to Calipari’s Hot Headedness

*The following is the original Arkansas vs Louisville preview on BoAS*

Arkansas basketball easily won its first three games of the season, but things are about to get a lot more difficult as it shifts its focus to the Maui Invitational.

With teams like Texas Tech, Arizona, Creighton and Ohio State in the field, it’s expected to be the Razorbacks’ toughest test yet, but their first opponent – Louisville – has underachieved, to put it kindly.

The Cardinals are still searching for their first win under first-year head coach Kenny Payne, perhaps a familiar name to Hog fans. The last time Arkansas basketball head coach Eric Musselman went toe-to-toe with Payne was during his first season with the Hogs.

Payne was the associate head coach at Kentucky when the No. 10 Wildcats came into a rowdy Bud Walton Arena in January 2020 to take on the unranked Razorbacks. Kentucky head coach John Calipari was infamously ejected from a 44-44 ball game with 8:19 remaining, leaving Payne as the acting head coach.

After the Hogs jumped out to a quick 3-point lead, Payne rallied the Wildcats on a 15-0 run that ultimately sealed a 73-66 victory over the Hogs.

Now, however, Payne has had a painful go of things to open his first full-time head coaching gig. His alma mater has opened the season with one-point losses to Bellarmine, Wright State, and Appalachian State. Throw in last year’s season-ending loss to Virginia and Louisville has four straight one-point losses – the first team to do that since Stetson in 1982-83, per OptaSTATS.

The Hogs know that those close losses don’t mean anything when playing against the Cardinals.

“A team that’s struggling like that, they’re going to come out with a lot of fire,” freshman Anthony Black said after the South Dakota State win. “We’ve got to be ready for them to come with their hardest, best punch they have… They’re a couple of buckets away from being 3-0. We have to disregard their record and respect our opponent.”

Musselman echoed that sentiment, telling the team that Louisville will “play an A-plus game sometime in the near future.”

What to Expect from Louisville

Senior guard El Ellis paces the Cardinals with a team-high 24 points and 3.3 assists per game. He’s also taking the most shots for Louisville by far – 17.7 attempts per game compared to 7.3 from the next closest player, sophomore forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield.

Ellis is the only guard Louisville seems to trust with ball handling duties, but he has been forced into 5.3 turnovers per game through his first three outings. Anthony Black and Davonte Davis – both averaging over 2.0 steals per game – should feast defensively in this matchup.

As a team, the Cardinals shoot only 34% from long range, but this number is heavily dragged down by freshman forward Kamari Lands starting the season 0 of 8 from distance. Six different players are shooting at least 33% and combine to shoot 39% from behind the arc, including two shooting over 40%.

This 3-point attack is spearheaded by Ellis (37% on 9 attempts per game) and freshman Michael James. The 6-foot-6 swingman is currently hitting at a 50% rate on his 3.3 attempts from behind the arc per game. He’s a dangerous shooter that will likely have the full attention of Arkansas’ plethora of perimeter defenders.

Huntley-Hatfield, listed at 6-foot-10, 235 pounds, is the biggest interior threat for the Cardinals, scoring 10.3 points and grabbing 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 63% from inside the arc. His backup is another 6-foot-10 rebounding force in Roosevelt Wheeler. The sophomore forward is averaging 3.5 offensive rebounds in only 11.5 minutes per game to go along with 2.3 offensive rebounds from Huntley-Hatfield. Keeping the Cardinals’ bigs away from the offensive glass will be vital for Arkansas.

What to Expect from Arkansas

Arkansas freshman guard Nick Smith Jr. missed his third straight game to open the season Wednesday and had still yet to practice with the team up to that point. His status for the Maui Invitational is up in the air.

“He was out there shooting just now,” Musselman said of his star freshman postgame on Wednesday. “He continues to improve, but we want to make sure he’s in a good spot. It’s day-to-day. He has not practiced, hasn’t done 5-on-0 skeleton work, so it continues to be a process that we just have to evaluate.”

In Smith’s absence, Ricky Council IV led the Hogs offensively against South Dakota State as he’s done all season, scoring a team-high 19 points on 67% shooting. He has taken full advantage of the opportunity laid in front of him, orchestrating the offense in a way that he’s never done before in his career – including averaging 3.7 assists when his career average prior to this season was just 1.3.

It was transfer forward Trevon Brazile that truly stole the show in Arkansas’ last outing with his monstrous poster dunk that left the entire basketball world – collegiate and professional – buzzing, catching the attention of NBA legends like LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Vince Carter, as well as earning the No. 1 spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays for the night.

Aside from garnering the national spotlight for a few days, Brazile turned in another solid performance in the Razorback win. He recorded his second career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. This was Brazile’s second career double-double, both coming in the first three games of his Razorback career (the one game he did not get a double-double, he recorded 8 points and 8 rebounds).

Jordan Walsh made his second consecutive start against the Jackrabbits. He played 16 minutes and tallied 10 points before injuring his ankle in the second half. He was helped to the locker room before eventually returning to the bench under his own power, though he never re-entered the game.

“We need to get Jordan healthy for sure, because we can’t afford to have anybody else out,” Musselman said of Arkansas’ need for depth in the tournament-style Maui Invitational.

The day before the game, Louisville head coach Kenny Payne gave Arkansas basketball quite the compliment during the pre-tournament press conference.

“When we’re playing a team like Arkansas, we’re not walking away saying we win or lose,” Payne said. “We’re walking away saying this is an elite team, a well-coached team, an unbelievable athletic team (that) probably should be in the NBA.”

Arkansas vs Louisville – Maui Invitational: What to Watch For

The Razorbacks went all in on acquiring size at every position this offseason and it’s already paying dividends with their stifling defense. Through three games, the Hogs are forcing 21.3 turnovers per game – including 12.7 steals per game, 10th-most in the country. Louisville comes into this game with a turnover issue of its own, committing 16.7 turnovers per game (39th-most in the country), with Ellis coughing the ball up the most.

In what should still be the Razorbacks’ biggest test of the season so far despite Louisville’s early-season struggles, watch for how many turnovers and fast break points they’re able to generate. On the flip side, the foul situation for Arkansas will be worth monitoring, as well. They’re committing 19 fouls per game and Louisville shoots 78% from the charity stripe as a team, putting them in the top 35 free throw shooting teams so far this year.

With or without potential foul trouble, Musselman will also get his best chance so far to test the depth he’s built into this roster. This is the first tournament-style setting for the Razorbacks where they will play three games in three days, so it’s reasonable to expect a slightly deeper rotation earlier in the game than what Musselman might play in regular non-conference games, especially in the Tuesday and Wednesday games.

Watch for more minutes from players that have been on the fringe of the rotation through three games, like Makhel Mitchell, Jalen Graham and Joseph Pinion.

“We’ve got a lot of depth on this team,” Black said. “We’ve got a lot of dudes we trust to come in and give us good minutes… I think we have some of the best depth in the country.”

Enjoying the Moment in Maui

Musselman has never been one to enforce strict hotel-arrest-like rules when traveling with his teams, and Maui looks to be no different.

“We are leaving earlier than we originally planned so we can put our bags up and get out on the beach,” Musselman said. “Instead of doing a semi-walkthrough here, we’ll do it on the beach. Saturday we are doing surfing lessons. My hope is to get everybody (standing) up on a board.”

“I don’t know how the results are going to go, but when we went to Niagara Falls, that had no effect – actually it probably had a positive effect on our mental state rather than keeping guys in a hotel room. When we went to San Francisco and toured the Giants stadium, that didn’t hurt us, it helped us. I’m never going to do something at all that hurts our preparation.”

Perhaps this reflects Musselman’s professional experience and tendency to recruit transfers with a high level of experience, allowing him to have a more hands-off approach on these trips. He isn’t worried about potentially distracting his team with extra-curricular activities prior to tipoff, noting that “there is one team that’s going to be focused and ready to play and that’s us.”

Davonte Davis, for one, couldn’t wait to get on the plane to Maui.

“It’s my first time, I’m excited,” Davis said after the South Dakota State win. “I’m ready to go. I could leave tomorrow.”

Game Prediction – Arkansas vs Louisville (Maui Invitational)

The matchup against Louisville gives Arkansas its first taste of Power Five action in the regular season, as well as its first game away from Bud Walton Arena since their blowout exhibition loss to Texas. The Hogs’ offense may stumble early, but their defense will travel well and force the Cardinals into at least their season average in turnovers (16.7) and hold them below 33% from long range.

The Razorback guards will cause all sorts of problems for Louisville due to their lack of ball handlers, and the points generated off of turnovers and stops will supply the Hogs enough of a lead to hold on to their first neutral site win of the season before facing the winner of No. 10 Creighton and No. 23 Texas Tech. There’s a chance the Hogs will face the Bluejays and their 6-foot-8 shooter that was almost a Razorback this season, Baylor Scheierman.

Arkansas, 71-60

How to Watch Arkansas vs Louisville

Date: Monday, Nov. 21

Location: Lahaina Civic Center (Maui, Hawaii)

Tipoff Time/TV Schedule: 4 p.m. CT (ESPN2)

Announcers: Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas

ESPN BPI: Arkansas has an 89.4% chance of winning, favored by 13.6

Odds/Betting Line: Arkansas, -16.5 | O/U 139.5 (BetSaracen)


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