FAYETTEVILLE — Good vibes have returned to Arkansas and all it took was breaking a pair of rules on Wednesday.
On the same day the football program officially announced the return of Bobby Petrino, the Razorbacks knocked off No. 7 Duke 80-75 and the record crowd inside Bud Walton Arena streamed onto the floor to celebrate.
Even though the SEC strengthened its rules against court — and field — storming this summer, the 20,344 fans in the building ignored PA announcements asking them to stay off when the final buzzer sounded. It will result in a $100,000 fine for the UA, but Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman didn’t seem to mind.
“Incredible home crowd tonight,” Musselman said in his postgame press conference. “I mean, just an insane environment. Real cool to experience that, even as kind of an old guy.”
It was the perfect ending for a team in desperate need of a big win after losing three of its last four games, including back-to-back losses to Memphis and North Carolina last week at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
The Razorbacks dropped out of the AP Poll as a result and were in danger of falling to 4-4 if they couldn’t pull off the upset of the Blue Devils, a fact Musselman didn’t shy away from the last few days.
“We don’t have the record that we were hopeful to have,” Musselman said. “You lose tonight’s game, now all of a sudden you’re .500, and then you’re wondering that you have to get some signature wins. There was a lot of pressure on tonight’s game — a lot.
“I thought our guys responded. We let them know where we were. We didn’t act like, ‘Hey, it’s early in the season. We’ve got time.’ It was discussed that it was a must-win for us.”
The fans certainly did their part.
More than 1,200 students camped out in tents at “Camp Bud” the night before and Bud Walton Arena was rocking well before the scheduled 8:15 p.m. CT tipoff.
“I can’t imagine going somewhere else and playing against something like that,” Trevon Brazile said. “So just to have the fans there, that’s the best fans in the country. They’re camping outside. I drove past, there were probably 5,000 students outside. You’re probably not getting that anywhere else in the country.”
Included among the crowd were 20-plus credentialed scouts from 20-plus NBA teams, with several others simply buying tickets to get into the game. Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti was among them, as well as Arkansas basketball legends like current Little Rock head coach Darrell Walker and former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson.
The latter of those was shown on the video board just before the start of the second half, sending the fans into a frenzy and ensuring the energy from the first half carried through halftime.
Perhaps the most ballyhooed attendee, though, was new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino, for whom the UA had to get special approval to hire because of a UA System policy prohibiting the re-hire of employees fired with cause.
Students broke out into multiple chants for him, but he remained in a suite with head coach Sam Pittman and wasn’t even shown on the video board, allowing the basketball team to take center stage in one of the biggest non-conference games ever played at Bud Walton Arena.
Even without Petrino’s presence, it was bound to be a raucous atmosphere and it clearly impacted the Blue Devils, who turned in their worst shooting performance of the year from the floor (35.8%) and beyond the arc (27.3%).
Milestone for Muss
It took longer than he probably would have liked, but Eric Musselman’s 100th win as the Arkansas basketball coach was quite memorable.
However, he joked afterward that he didn’t have anything to remember it by because of an oversight by athletics director Hunter Yurachek, which he mentioned tongue-in-cheek to reporters.
“Hunter never gave me a ball now that I’m thinking about it,” Musselman said. “I think at Nevada, Doug Knuth gave me a ball with 100 wins. I’ve got to check with Hunter on that. I guess he’s been occupied of late.”
Musselman is now 100-45 overall with the Razorbacks. Even more impressive than that record, though, is the fact that he’s now won seven games against AP Top-10 teams. He’s nearly .500 in those games now, improving to 7-8 since taking over the program.
Here’s how that mark compares to past Arkansas basketball coaches:
|Arkansas Basketball Coach
|Record vs. AP Top 10
|Lanny Van Eman
Up Next for Arkansas Basketball
After a string of four straight games against high-major opponents, including back-to-back ranked ACC foes, the Razorbacks will face a mid-major before hitting the road for a showdown with No. 25 Oklahoma in Tulsa.
That doesn’t necessarily mean a huge drop-off in level of competition. On Monday, Furman will come to Bud Walton Arena as the preseason favorite to win the SoCon. That’s the same conference in which the UNC Greensboro Spartans, who beat Arkansas earlier this month, was picked to finish second.
Of course, the Furman Paladins — which are led by a pair of preseason all-conference players — are just 4-3 so far this season and travel to Princeton on Saturday before heading to Fayetteville for Monday’s 7 p.m. CT tipoff on SEC Network-Plus. Even with the slow start, Furman is still No. 139 on KenPom.
Other Arkansas Basketball Tidbits
- The Razorbacks found a way to win despite being without leading scorer Tramon Mark (18.4 ppg), as he continues to recover from a scary injury suffered last week in the Bahamas. Eric Musselman praised the Houston transfer for still being involved the past few days at practice, but said he had “no idea” when he’d be available to play again.
- As mentioned above, Arkansas basketball announced a record crowd of 20,344 for the Duke game. By winning Wednesday, the Razorbacks are now 8-2 in the games played in front of their top 10 largest crowds at Bud Walton Arena — which includes a 4-1 mark in front of the top five crowds, all of which were against top-10 teams.
- Wednesday also marked the first time Arkansas has beaten a ranked ACC team since knocking off No. 4 North Carolina in the 1995 Final Four to advance to the national championship game. It had lost its previous eight such games, including to North Carolina at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas last week. Indeed, five of those losses came to UNC (the others happened in 2008, 2015, 2017, 2017).
- As a team, the Razorbacks finished with 10 blocks. It’s just the eighth time since 2010-11 that an opponent has blocked at least 10 shots against Duke. Arkansas came into the game averaging 6.3 blocks, which ranked eighth nationally.
- Eric Musselman was not happy about his team’s ball movement in the Bahamas, as they managed only 19 total assists on 75 field goals (25.3%) in their three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis. He was much happier after Wednesday’s game, in which Arkansas had 17 assists on 26 field goals (65.4%).
Arkansas vs Duke Highlights
Arkansas vs Duke Box Score
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