FAYETTEVILLE — For the fourth time in five years, Arkansas basketball returned to its former home for its annual Red-White game.
Playing in front of an estimated crowd of 5,478 fans at Barnhill Arena, the Red team rallied from an early deficit to beat the White team 88-70 in a 32-minute scrimmage consisting of four 8-minute quarters.
The Red team got a game-high 20 points from sophomore Joseph Pinion, 16 points and 6 assists with only 1 turnover from Louisville transfer El Ellis, 15 points from super senior Jalen Graham and a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds from Memphis transfer Chandler Lawson.
Even Southern Miss transfer Denijay Harris chipped in 11 points and notched a game-high 5 steals.
However, it was head coach Eric Musselman’s first four-year contributor who rose to the occasion and helped the Red team dig out of a 12-point hole midway through the second quarter.
Davonte Davis didn’t have the flashiest of stat lines, although he did score 13 points on an efficient 5 of 7 shooting with 3 assists, but he came off the bench and provided the spark Arkansas fans have grown accustomed to since he arrived on campus as a four-star in-state recruit from Jacksonville.
“Having Devo come in, obviously, you bring a dawg onto the court, it’s going to go a lot easier,” Pinion said. “I just feel like Devo really makes the game a lot easier.”
That resulted in him posting a plus-20 in just 24 minutes of action. In the eight minutes he was on the bench, the White team actually outscored the Red team by two.
Here are a few other takeaways and observations from the annual Red-White game…
Signs of Improved 3-Point Shooting
One area in which Arkansas basketball has consistently struggled during Eric Musselman’s tenure is shooting from beyond the arc.
In fact, the last two seasons, the Razorbacks have been a downright bad shooting team, ranking 315th and 320th nationally in 3-point percentage. They were slightly better in his first two seasons at the helm, but still not great, ranking 175th in Year 1 and 196th in Year 2.
At least on paper, it seems as though Musselman addressed that issue this offseason. Not only did he retain Joseph Pinion and Trevon Brazile, who shot a combined 24 of 63 (38.1%) in limited action last year, but Davonte Davis is back after shooting 41.5% from deep in SEC play. He also brought in Khalif Battle and Jeremiah Davenport from the transfer portal.
When he spoke with the media last week, Musselman sounded like he believed Arkansas will improve in that area this season, but he — like many fans — wants to see it before he fully buys into it.
“Well, we can’t be much worse than what we’ve shot the last three years, so I do think we are a better shooting team,” Musselman said. “That still has to happen in a game. There were times the last couple of years where we thought we could really shoot it, but you really need more than one or two guys to make shots.”
Sure enough, despite neither Brazile nor Battle playing, Arkansas knocked down 14 of 28 shots from beyond the arc Wednesday night. Davenport led the charge by making 5 of 8, while Pinion was 3 of 4 and Davis was 2 of 3.
Of course, this was just an intrasquad scrimmage. How much stock can you put into these statistics? Well, if recent history is any indication, not a whole lot.
In 2020 and 2021, the Razorbacks shot 42.6% and 38.9%, respectively, from beyond the arc in the Red-White game, only to fall back down to earth by shooting 33.2% and 30.4% during the actual season. Arkansas also showed fast improvement from its 2019 and 2022 Red-White game performances — albeit going from terrible to just bad.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of Wednesday’s 3-point shooting was the fact that the Razorbacks attempted only 28. That’s particularly surprising when you consider both teams shot — and missed — one within the first 30 seconds of the scrimmage. The latter of those misses was by El Ellis and Musselman wasn’t particularly pleased by it.
“One of his shots, it was addressed right away,” Musselman said. “It was his first shot of the game, the pull-up 3 that he’s not going to take again to start a game.”
Other than that, the players taking the 3s were mostly those who need to be taking them. Davenport, Pinion and Davis accounted for more than half of the attempts and went 10 of 15. Throw Battle and Brazile into the mix and the Razorbacks seem to have the most 3-point threats they’ve had during Musselman’s tenure.
“We’re going to be able to stretch the defense out a little bit more than maybe we have in the past,” Musselman said. “So really pleased with our shooting.”
|Year||Red-White 3-Point Shooting||Season 3-Point Shooting||3PT% rank|
|2023-24||14 of 28 (50%)||TBA||TBA|
|2022-23||7 of 31 (22.6%)||31.3%||315th|
|2021-22||21 of 54 (38.9%)||30.4%||320th|
|2020-21||23 of 54 (42.6%)||33.2%||196th|
|2019-20||9 of 35 (25.7%)||33.4%||175th|
|2018-19||21 of 53 (39.6%)||34.5%||167th|
Davenport’s Streakiness on Display
He may not have been as heralded as some of the other transfers, but Jeremiah Davenport came from Cincinnati with the reputation as a streaky shooter and scorer.
Over the last three seasons, he averaged 11.3 points and shot 35.2% from beyond the arc. When he averaged 9.1 points last season, he had eight games with 14 or more points and eight games with 3 or fewer points.
Arkansas got a taste of that streakiness on Wednesday when he scored 19 points on 6 of 8 shooting in the first half of the Red-White game and then was held scoreless on 0 of 2 shooting in the second half.
“I’d say first half, I came out hot, as y’all know,” Davenport said. “Second half didn’t go my way obviously, but that happens sometimes. It’s a scrimmage. First half, I was in my element. Second half, I kind of slipped a little bit. But I’ll be better, for sure.”
That streakiness is a reason the Razorbacks were able to get him from the transfer portal for his super senior season because if he was more consistent, he probably would have had professional opportunities.
“If he had 19 points in the second half, he probably wouldn’t be playing here,” Musselman said with a smile. “He is a streaky shooter. He’s a guy that can put points on the board in a hurry. … When his feet are set, he’s not a good shooter, he’s a great shooter.”
It wasn’t all great for Davenport, though. He did commit six turnovers, which was three times as many as anyone else in the scrimmage.
As a result, Musselman said he’d be getting extra work “playing in a crowd” and not getting stripped. If he can get stronger with the ball and not turn it over, he could be an offensive weapon for the Razorbacks.
“I’ve been doing this for four years, so I’m kind of used to it,” Davenport said of his 3-point shooting. “Not to be cocky or anything, but my work speaks for itself. It’s just regular to me, to be honest.”
Year 2 at Arkansas for Pinion, Graham
As mentioned above, Joseph Pinion was the leading scorer in the Red-White game, finishing with 20 points on 7 of 8 shooting.
He has always been known for his ability to shoot the ball from long range, but whether or not he develops a consistent role on this year’s team will likely depend on how other areas of his game improve – which could be expected for a guy going into his sophomore year.
“I just feel like I matured a lot, being around the whole team that’s older,” Pinion said. “I’m the third-youngest guy on the team, so I really had to mature with these guys being older and just the physicality and how good they are. Having to go against that every day, it’s automatically going to make you a better player.”
In 27 minutes, Pinion also grabbed 4 rebounds – an area that Musselman has been pleased with his strides – and had 1 assist and 1 steal. In addition to knocking down 3 of 4 attempts from beyond the arc, he made all four of his shots inside the arc. That included a couple of dunks. He also got to the free throw line a couple of times and made 3 of 4 free throws.
“I think he’s definitely stronger,” Musselman said. “I think he’s gained some weight, but it’s really, really good weight. I think he’s actually leaner. It’s not often you can have a player get stronger, gain a little bit of weight and lean out as well, and he’s done that.”
Musselman added that Pinion still needed to get better defensively, but he didn’t appear to be as big of a liability on that side of the ball in the Red-White game as he was during his freshman campaign.
It’s a similar story for Jalen Graham, the Arizona State transfer entering his second season with the Razorbacks.
He is lethal around the basket because of his excellent touch, but didn’t get consistent minutes last year because he lacked in other areas – specifically defense and rebounding.
It took him a little bit to get going Wednesday, but Graham eventually reminded everyone of his scoring ability in the Red-White game, finishing with 15 points on 7 of 11 shooting. Perhaps most encouraging, though, was the fact he grabbed 6 rebounds.
Graham also dished 4 assists, showcasing some great vision on kick outs to shooters on the perimeter – something that he will only continue to get better at while also learning how to get the ball back when he does have to kick it out.
“I think he’s bought into the total scheme on both sides of the ball,” Musselman said. “I’d like to see him rebound a little bit more in traffic. But offensively he’s a really hard guy to cover, and he commands a double team. He’s going to have to learn when people dig down or trap to get that thing out and get it back on a re-post. That’ll be really important for him.”
Arkansas Basketball Red-White Game Stats
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