FAYETTEVILLE — Exhibition games, even against Division II teams, have been far from boring for Arkansas basketball fans the last couple of years.
Last season, head coach Eric Musselman was whistled for a technical in the midst of an 83-49 beatdown of Rogers State. The year before that, the Razorbacks had to battle back from a 14-point second-half deficit and then hang on for a 77-74 win over East Central.
UT Tyler is this year’s tune-up opponent for Arkansas and, at least on paper, should meet a result much more similar to the 34-point blowout in 2022 than the barnburner of 2021. After all, the Patriots are entering just their sixth season as a Division II program and are coming off a 9-17 campaign.
That doesn’t change the way Musselman approaches the exhibition, though. As last year’s technical showed, he’s the same fiery coach in games that don’t actually count as he is in the NCAA Tournament.
“In his eyes, every game is the same, so he is going to coach as hard against any team that he will against any other team,” sophomore Joseph Pinion said. “He’s going to coach hard. He’s going to be intense. He’s going to be really into the game. He might get a technical, but it just shows his passion for the game.”
Regardless of opponent, the Razorbacks all along were going to look forward to Friday night inside Bud Walton Arena because it was their first action against another team and at their home arena. They certainly followed Musselman’s lead, coming away with a 92-39 over UT Tyler (see in-depth play by play below).
Arkansas basketball did play their annual Red-White game earlier this month and host numerous NBA scouts for their annual Pro Day last week, but this will be different. While it’s certainly not No. 3 Purdue, which comes to down for a charity exhibition on Oct. 28, UT Tyler gave the team and fans their first real glimpse of the 2023-24 Razorbacks.
“We’ve been grinding all summer, competing against each other, going hard every day,” senior transfer Denijay Harris said before the game. “It’s going to feel good to play somebody else. You enjoy competing against your teammates, but this is a new opponent. We’re prepared and ready.”
There was no streaming or radio available for Arkansas vs UT Tyler. However, Best of Arkansas Sports was in the building and provided live updates below…
LIVE UPDATES — Arkansas vs UT Tyler (exhibition)
Jalen Graham, who projects to be a key frontcourt player on this year’s team after playing a backup role last season, is not dressed out for today’s exhibition. On the bright side, Trevon Brazile is dressed and going through warmups. It remains to be seen if he’ll play.
14:40, 1H – Arkansas 12, UT Tyler 2
The first points of the game come on a fast break layup by Ellis off a turnover by UT Tyler.
The 3-point shooting hasn’t carried over to the exhibition so far. Pinion has missed two and Mark missed one. As we were typing that, though, Lawson knocked one down from the top of the key.
The first subs are Devo Davis and Makhi Mitchell replacing Pinion and Fall at the 17:24 mark.
On the first defensive possession after they checked in, Arkansas forced a shot clock violation. That was sandwiched between a jumper and 3-pointer by Ellis, who now has 7 points.
Ellis finally missed, failing to connect on a 3, but Mitchell grabbed the offensive board and put it in for an easy put back bucket.
After shooting 50% (14 of 28) from deep in the Red-White game, the Razorbacks have come back down to earth in the exhibition. At the first media timeout, they’re just 2 of 8 from beyond the arc.
11:22, 1H – Arkansas 16, UT Tyler 4
Trevon Brazile checks in out of the first media timeout. It’s his first action since tearing his ACL last December. Freshman Layden Blocker is also in the game. Jeremiah Davenport checked in less than a minute later.
The cold shooting extends to Davenport, who has missed his first two attempts from beyond the arc.
Arkansas’ defense has now forced four turnovers, the latest a 10-second violation without even really pressing.
The Razorbacks went nearly 2.5 minutes without scoring before Davis knocked down a mid-range jumper.
Musselman has played 10 players by the second media timeout.
7:19, 1H – Arkansas 30, UT Tyler 8
Brazile’s first shot is partially blocked, but Mitchell grabbed it and got fouled going up for a layup. He made both free throws.
A missed 3 by Brazile makes Arkansas 2 of 11 from deep. The third made 3 came via Davenport late in the shot clock and on a feed from Davis. Davis followed up the assist by coming up with a steal in the back court and getting a layup.
Davenport is such a streaky shooter. He just pulled up for a heat-check 3 and drained it.
Brazile gets on the board with a tough layup as he fell to the ground.
UT Tyler’s ninth turnover sends us to the U8 media timeout.
3:09, 1H – Arkansas 40, UT Tyler 10
Khalif Battle is now in the game. He missed the Red-White game with a foot injury.
It took more than 13 minutes, but UT Tyler is finally in double figures.
When Davenport is feeling it, he is FEELING it. He just pulled up from the corner with a hand in his face and drained it. He also went coast-to-coast after grabbing a rebound and got fouled. He checked out after making both free throws. He’s got 11 points.
Walk-on Cade Arbogast is checking in with 4:56 left in the first half.
The Razorbacks promptly forced another shot clock violation. They nearly had another, but UT Tyler got a shot off and then grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. Musselman is not happy about it.
HALF – Arkansas 45, UT Tyler 12
After missing a 3, Battle’s first points come on a fast break layup and courtesy a beautiful feed from Davis.
Tramon Mark does not have the prettiest 3-point shooting form. He’s now 0 of 2 from deep.
Baye Fall showed off his length by blocking a shot and also grabbing an offensive rebound, but he still looks like he needs to add some strength to really be effective.
The first half ends with Davis breaking some ankles to get to the basket for a tough bucket just before the buzzer.
16:22, 2H – Arkansas 56, UT Tyler 14
UT Tyler started the second half with the ball and had to call a timeout just 10 seconds in when it got trapped in the corner.
Rough start to the half for Arkansas, as it has committed an offensive foul on its first two possessions.
After missing his first three attempts, Pinion finally hit a corner 3 for his first points of the night.
Mark threw down a fast break dunk and then Pinion hit another 3, prompting a timeout by UT Tyler at the 16:22 mark. That pushed the lead to 42.
11:34, 2H – Arkansas 68, UT Tyler 23
Pinion has made three straight 3s after starting 0 of 3.
Mitchell is taking over. He grabbed an offensive rebound and still put it back up despite having four defenders around him. The next time down the floor, he drove to the basket and finished through contact. He made the free throw to complete the 3-point play.
UT Tyler has finally started making shots. After 13 straight misses dating back to the first half, the Patriots have made 5 of their last 7.
Trevon Brazile looks healthy, y’all. He just came flying in and skied for an offensive rebound, then immediately jumped right back up for a dunk.
Davenport drove base line and made a layup for his first non-3 of the night. He’s got a team-high 13 points.
7:55, 2H – Arkansas 73, UT Tyler 25
Battle’s second 3-point attempt of the night looked much smoother than his first. This one was from the corner and it dropped.
Brazile’s shot has been off from distance tonight. He just missed his fourth attempt.
He came down hard after a foul on a drive to the basket, but Davis immediately got back up and didn’t seem fazed. He only has 6 points (pending two upcoming free throws), but also has 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.
3:19, 2H – Arkansas 85, UT Tyler 36
It’s turned into a foul fest. Arkansas has been called for four in the span of 68 seconds. Free throws are what’s keeping UT Tyler within striking distance of the 41.5-point spread set by BetSaracen.
The first non-free throw points, by either team, in nearly three minute of game time come on a 3 by Battle.
At the final media timeout, the only Razorbacks in double figures are Davenport (13) and Mark (10).
FINAL – Arkansas 92, UT Tyler 39
Battle is heating up. He just knocked down a long 2 with a defender in his face. He suddenly has 12 points.
On the next possession, Battle drove to the basket and drew a foul with the shot clock winding down. He made both free throws and now leads all scorers with 14 points.
Walk-on Lawson Blake gets on the board with a free throw. He was fouled after a nice pass by Battle.
FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs UT Tyler
See full Arkansas basketball highlights here:
|UT Tyler Basketball||Arkansas Basketball|
|#0 – G Bryce Roberts – Jr. | 6-1 | 180||#3 – G El Ellis – Sr. | 6-3 | 180|
|#1 – G David Ayala – Jr. | 6-7 | 210||#5 – G Joseph Pinion – So. | 6-5 | 195|
|#10 – G Terrell Wilson – R-Sr. | 5-11 | 185||#12 – G Tramon Mark – Jr. | 6-6 | 185|
|#11 – G Jonathan Jackson – Sr. | 6-4 | 205||#8 – F Chandler Lawson – Sr. | 6-8 | 210|
|#15 – F Juan Pablo Camargo – Jr. | 6-9 | 220||#10 – F Baye Fall – Fr. | 6-11 | 200|
While Pinion, Mark and Ellis were all expected to be in the top 8 rotation coming into the season, seeing Musselman give a starting nod to true freshman Baye Fall and Chandler Lawson, the last transfer added to the squad this offseason, is a bit of surprise. Then again, this exhibition doesn’t count and perhaps it’s a way to reward hard work in practice.
Preseason Expectations for Arkansas Basketball
For the third straight year, Arkansas basketball finds itself in the preseason AP Poll.
The Razorbacks check in at No. 14, which makes them the second-highest ranked team in the SEC behind No. 9 Tennessee. They’re just ahead of No. 15 Texas A&M, No. 16 Kentucky and No. 24 Alabama.
The SEC — which leads all conferences with five teams in the preseason top 25 — also had four teams receive votes: Auburn, Mississippi State, Missouri and Florida.
Unlike the order of that ranking, Arkansas was picked to finish third in the conference by the media earlier this week. Tennessee is the preseason favorite, followed by Texas A&M, with Arkansas just ahead of Kentucky.
Two Razorbacks landed on the preseason All-SEC teams. Trevon Brazile landed on the seven-man first team, while Davonte Davis got a second-team nod.
UT Tyler Sound Familiar?
If you’re a diehard Arkansas basketball fan, there’s a chance UT Tyler sounds familiar.
In their final season in Division III, the Patriots were led by an all-conference big man named Emeka Obukwelu, who averaged 19.6 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Following that 2017-18 season, Obukwelu actually transferred to Arkansas as a walk-on. He redshirted during Mike Anderson’s final season and stuck around for the first two years of Eric Musselman’s tenure.
Although he was never put on scholarship or scored a point, the Plano, Texas, native appeared in 11 games. He grabbed six rebounds and dished one assist in 14 total minutes of playing time.
Granted an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic, Obukwelu entered the transfer portal and dropped down to the Division II level by landing at Northeastern State in Oklahoma. In his lone season with the River Hawks, he averaged 15.0 points and 8.1 rebounds while earning all-conference honors before signing to play professionally in Croatia.
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