FAYETTEVILLE — For the third time in as many games, Arkansas basketball put its opponent away early and cruised to an easy victory.
A late run in the first half continued after halftime and the No. 9 Razorbacks crushed South Dakota State 71-56 in their final tuneup before the Maui Invitational next week.
Arkansas will head to Hawaii with a 3-0 record, having won each game by at least 18. In the latest game, it led the three-time defending Summit League champion Jackrabbits by as many as 27 before turning to its bench to finish off the win.
Despite playing only 30 minutes, Ricky Council IV once again led the Razorbacks in scoring with 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Trevon Brazile notched another double-double and his 13-point, 10-rebound performance was capped by a late poster dunk.
Here are a few updates from the game, as well as some highlights and full stats…
LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs South Dakota State
Arkansas is going with the same starting lineup it used against Fordham.
This is the 500th all-time men’s basketball game inside Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks enter Wednesday’s game with a 408-91 (.818) record inside their home building.
7:27, 1H – Arkansas 24, South Dakota State 15
The defense came out strong once again, forcing six turnovers on South Dakota State’s first nine possessions.
After a rough shooting night against Fordham, Davonte Davis knocked down his first two mid-range jumpers Wednesday night.
Jalen Graham made the most of his minutes late in the blowout win over the Rams and was rewarded with some first-half action against the Jackrabbits. He’s been very active, grabbing a lot of rebounds and putting up a lot of shots.
At the under-8 media timeout, Ricky Council IV leads the way with 9 points. His last bucket came on a fast break when he grabbed a loose ball near midcourt and blew past an SDSU player on his way to the rim for a dunk. That came after back-to-back 3s by the Razorbacks that gave them some breathing room after the Jackrabbits pulled within three.
HALF – Arkansas 41, South Dakota State 29
Jalen Graham showed a lack of hustle on a couple of possessions and it led to Musselman calling his first timeout of the season. He did so angrily and yelled at the Arizona State transfer as he walked to the bench.
That came at the 2:28 mark and South Dakota State had pulled within four points. Musselman put his starters back in and they responded by ending the half on a 10-2 run.
There was a really impressive two-minute stretch by Walsh in which he knocked down a 3-pointer, had two steals, blocked a shot and dished an assist.
Halftime Stats – Arkansas vs South Dakota State
15:10, 2H – Arkansas 52, South Dakota State 32
South Dakota State opened up the second half by knocking down 1 of 2 free throws, but Arkansas answered with an 11-0 run to push its lead to 22 and force the Jackrabbits to call a timeout. That last two points of that run came on an impressive transition dunk by Council.
The under-16 media timeout comes when Walsh gets injured. He had to be helped off the court and to the locker room, not putting any weight on his left leg.
7:55, 2H – Arkansas 64, South Dakota State 37
He has yet to go back in the game, but Walsh emerged from the locker room about 10 minutes later and was walking under his own power. He spent time on a stationary bike in the tunnel.
Arkansas has dominated the second half. After its earlier 11-0 run, it is now on a 10-0 run. The lead has stretched to 27 and freshman Derrian Ford is in the game.
FINAL – Arkansas 71, South Dakota State 56
Final Stats – Arkansas vs South Dakota State
Starting Lineups – Arkansas vs South Dakota State
|South Dakota State||Arkansas|
|#2 – G Zeke Mayo – So. | 6-3 | 185||#0 – G Anthony Black – Fr. | 6-7 | 198|
|#30 – G Charlie Easley – Jr. | 6-2 | 185||#4 – G Davonte Davis – Jr. | 6-4 | 185|
|#34 – G Alex Arians – Sr. | 6-4 | 200||#1 – G Ricky Council IV – Jr. | 6-6 | 205|
|#32 – F Matt Dentlinger – Sr. | 6-8 | 240||#13 – G/F Jordan Walsh – Fr. | 6-7 | 205|
|#42 – F William Kyle III – Fr. | 6-9 | 215||#15 – F/C Makhi Mitchell – Sr. | 6-9 | 230|
South Dakota State’s Hofstra-like Vibes
*NOTE: The following is the original preview of the Arkansas vs South Dakota State game from BoAS*
FAYETTEVILLE — After turning in a defensive masterpiece on Friday, Arkansas basketball has shifted its focus to one of the country’s premier low-major programs. Getting a significant breather is a luxury South Dakota State doesn’t have.
The Jackrabbits will have less than 24 hours to prepare for Wednesday’s 7 p.m. CT tipoff against the No. 9 Razorbacks after beating St. Bonaventure – a top mid-major program in its own right – by a score of 66-62 on Tuesday night.
“You’re talking about a team that won 30 games last year,” head coach Eric Musselman said about South Dakota State basketball. “There’s not a lot of people that want to play them. It’s hard for us right now to schedule games and it’s hard for South Dakota State to schedule games.”
Playing two critical non-conference games against high-quality opponents on back-to-back days shows just how badly South Dakota State wanted to play the game, so it should be plenty motivated.
Musselman added that he expects the Jackrabbits to charter a flight after their game Tuesday night, but condensed travel isn’t always a death knell. After all, Hofstra flew into Little Rock on the day of its matchup against Arkansas last year because its original flight was canceled, “but it didn’t really affect Hofstra too much,” he said, alluding to Hofstra’s upset of the Razorbacks in North Little Rock.
The Jackrabbits have won three straight Summit League regular-season titles, winning 22, 16 and 30 games over that three-year stretch. They also went 18-0 in conference play last season.
Despite losing its two leading scorers from last season – Douglas Wilson (16.4 ppg) graduated and Baylor Scheierman (16.2 ppg) transferred – South Dakota State is projected to finish near the top of the conference yet again, being tabbed second behind only Oral Roberts in the preseason poll.
This game might have had even more intrigue had Musselman and the Razorbacks been successful in their attempt to recruit the latter of those players to Arkansas for the 2022-23 season. Scheierman, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who shot nearly 46% from long range on 5.3 attempts per game over the last two seasons, even included Arkansas in his top five before ultimately taking his talents to Creighton and the Big East where he now averages 8.3 points and 9.7 rebounds with 35% three-point shooting (In a twist of fate, the Razorbacks may still get to see Scheierman this year, as the Blue Jays are a potential second-round opponent at next week’s Maui Invitational.)
Instead, Arkansas pulled in an impressive defensive-minded haul from the transfer portal. Though their newfound length projects to aid in another elite defensive season, it doesn’t appear to have fixed the Razorbacks’ shooting woes – they are just 6 of 26 (23.1%) from 3-point range. Oh, what the Hogs wouldn’t give for a high-volume three-point marksman shooter to boost that average.
What to Expect from South Dakota State Basketball
Even with those two vital departures, South Dakota State returns five key players from last season – four of which started at least 14 of the team’s 35 games. These five returners played more than half of the available minutes and combined for over 51% of the total scoring output in the 2021-22 season.
“These guys have played on a 30-win team,” Musselman said of the Jackrabbits’ returning core. “They know how to win. They know how to win on the road. We’ve got six freshmen and 11 new players, so we have to play at a high level where you can win games like this.”
One of those aforementioned returners is 6-foot-8 senior wing Matt Dentlinger. He is averaging a team-high 16.7 points on 71% shooting over the first three games of the season, and he’s done a majority of his damage from inside the arc – shooting 73% on 7.3 two-point attempts per game, though he is 1 of 2 from beyond the arc, as well.
The Jackrabbits have three players averaging more than two 3-point attempts in sophomore guard Zeke Mayo (25% on 5.3 attempts per game), junior guard Charlie Easley (20% on 3.3 attempts per game), and junior guard Matthew Mims (56% on 3 attempts per game). Mayo, standing at 6-foot-3, is a major focal point of the SDSU offense who Musselman said can create his own shot and has “deep, deep, deep range.”
Mayo has taken 10.7 shots per game – over two more per game than his closest teammate – despite shooting only 31% from the field so far this season. The Hogs will still have to respect his confidence, however, and avoid being a “get-right” game for the sophomore who averaged nearly 10 points per game last season.
Alex Arians, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, leads the Jackrabbits in minutes played this season thanks in large part to his all-around production. He only averages 10 points per game, but he’s also contributing 6 rebounds and 4 assists while getting to the free throw line a team-high 6 times per game. He could become a thorn in Arkansas’ side if he’s able to force his defensive matchup into foul trouble.
One key returner, Luke Appel, took the court for the first time Tuesday night after missing the team’s first two games due to injury. He played limited minutes, but still contributed 9 points and an assist on perfect 3-for-3 shooting from the field in only 12 minutes.
The 6-foot-8 forward shot just under 36% from long range last season while averaging 9 points and 3.6 rebounds off the bench. He will be yet another deadly shooter the Hogs have to account for.
Nick Smith Jr. is likely to miss his third game to open the season. The five-star freshman has yet to practice in full with the team since the start of the regular season as of Eric Musselman’s press conference Monday afternoon and remains “day-to-day.”
“He’s doing some stuff on his own – shooting, rehabbing with the trainer,” Musselman said. “He has not practiced with us and he continues to slowly but surely improve. Each day that goes by, (he) gets closer to rejoining us in practice, but he’s not there as of today.”
What to Expect from Arkansas Basketball
In Smith’s absence, Wichita State transfer Ricky Council IV poured in 22 points – his third-best total in his career – in his Arkansas basketball debut last Monday and then tallied a career-high as he took on a different role from his usual high-flying, acrobatic finishes in Arkansas’ win over Fordham.
Despite having no prior experience running the point at Arkansas – even in practice – Council was handed the reins against the Rams and thrived under the new responsibility of running the pick-and-roll and initiating the offense. He shot nearly 42% from the field on his way to 15 points and career-high 7 assists.
“I thought he did a great job,” Musselman said. “I mean, seven assists is a lot for anybody, but it’s especially unique for somebody that maybe is wired to be a scorer.”
Clearly, Council wasn’t fazed by the unexpected role, even saying that he wants to “be in that type of situation more” during his postgame interview, though he made it clear that he’s focused on doing whatever Musselman asks him to do on the court. It will be worth monitoring whether Council continues to spend time in this point-forward role, especially after Smith returns.
Jordan Walsh showed out in his first collegiate start, recording 12 points and 4 rebounds in 21 minutes of action after suffering from foul trouble again in the first half – he now has 8 fouls in 39 total minutes this season. Musselman will undoubtedly experiment with a few different starting units before he settles on his go-to group later in the season, but Walsh is a prime candidate to stick at one of the forward positions if he can get a grasp on his foul trouble.
Jalen Graham made his season debut Friday after not appearing in the season-opener. The Arizona State transfer immediately made his presence felt with a quick bucket and foul within seconds of checking in. He finished the game with 10 points and 4 rebounds in 11 minutes of action – most of those minutes coming in mop-up duty after the game was already out of hand.
“I think there’s so much that goes into making decisions on who plays,” Musselman said of Graham’s performance. “There’s a lot of stuff that goes into decision-making behind closed doors. I thought Jalen had a great week of practice… Yesterday, he stayed (after practice) and worked on his game. He is a guy that can really, really score the ball.”
Perhaps this is a subtle indication that while Graham’s offensive repertoire is impressive, it hasn’t yet pushed him over the other big men soaking up most of the minutes thanks to their defensive versatility and rebounding prowess, including the starting center in each of the Razorbacks’ first two games, Makhi Mitchell.
“(Mitchell) has got elite defensive lateral quickness for a guy his size,” Musselman said after the win over Fordham. “He’s earned the starting spot – he’s earned the minutes that he’s getting right now.”
The forward rotation for Arkansas basketball will continue to be a point of interest through the entirety of non-conference play and likely into the thick of the SEC schedule.
What to Watch For in Arkansas vs South Dakota State
Arkansas turned in its best defensive performance yet against Fordham, holding the Rams to only 48 points on 38% shooting, including just 24% from beyond the arc. It was an encouraging sign, even though it was just the second game of the season, because even on its European tour and in exhibition games, Arkansas has had moments of weakness on the defensive side of the ball.
“For the first time, I feel like everybody was locked in as one,” Ricky Council IV said of the team’s defensive effort. “We were all having fun playing defense. When the team has fun playing defense, it’s going to be hard to stop.”
In their dominant win over Fordham, the Razorbacks put on a defensive clinic, forcing 30 turnovers. That total included 13 steals and multiple 5-second inbound violations.
“Defensively I thought we were phenomenal,” Musselman said postgame. “I don’t use that word often, but forcing 30 turnovers…I thought our defensive activity was phenomenal.”
Makhi Mitchell led the defensive charge after earning his second consecutive start. The Rhode Island transfer notched 3 steals for the second straight game and had 2 blocks in his 25 minutes of action. Given South Dakota State already averages 16 turnovers per game despite having one of the best offensive ratings in the country last season, Arkansas could be in for another field day.
“South Dakota State is going to win 20 to 25 to 30 (games) — that’s just what they do. So we’ve got to have incredible respect for them coming in here and incredible respect for how good they are offensively,” Musselman said. “Quite frankly, South Dakota State exposed Boise State’s defense in a lot of areas.
“When you have such a proficient offensive system and players that really fit your offensive style and scheme like South Dakota State, we just hope that we’re not exposed in areas that maybe they exposed against (their first two opponents).”
Arkansas vs South Dakota State Prediction
Without their star freshman for the third time in as many games, Arkansas will likely rely on its defense leading to offense – it scored 30 points off turnovers against Fordham – to generate easy buckets, though it might find this task more difficult than in either of its two previous games.
The 6-foot-6 Ricky Council IV and 6-foot-7 Anthony Black will lead the way offensively, taking advantage of a South Dakota State backcourt consisting of three guards standing 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4. Arkansas improves to 3-0 with another double-digit victory – barely – in their final homecourt “tune-up” before heading to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational over Thanksgiving break.
How to Watch Arkansas vs South Dakota State
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 16
Location: Bud Walton Arena (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Tipoff Time/TV Schedule: 7 p.m. CT (SEC Network-Plus)
ESPN BPI: Arkansas has an 88.0% chance of winning, favored by 13.5
Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman previews Arkansas vs South Dakota State:
More coverage of Arkansas basketball from BoAS…