On Saturday night in North Little Rock, the Razorbacks will take on the Hofstra Pride. In what will be the third meeting between the two teams, Arkansas will look to get back on track after a blowout loss to Oklahoma in Tulsa as Hofstra tries to pick up their first high major win of the season. Although the Pride are only 6-5 they have looked very impressive in their two ranked matchups earlier this season.
Hofstra took 15th-ranked Houston to overtime to begin the season and fell to 20th-ranked Maryland 69-67 shortly afterward. Apart from Cincinnati (which in reality is a high major program), this will be the best mid-major the Hogs face in the regular season and could truly be a tipping point for an Arkansas team that is seemingly unsteady at the moment.
When Hofstra Has the Ball
Hofstra will look to attack an Arkansas defense that just allowed a team to shoot 55% a week ago. The Pride do two things very well on offense, take care of the basketball (15th in the country) and make shots (25th in the country). This could be a challenging matchup for an Arkansas team that is desperately trying to find ways to slow down opposing shooters.
Hofstra does not lack scorers with all five of their starters averaging over 12 points per game. They will look to senior guard Zach Cooks to lead the way offensively as he averages 17 points per game while shooting 43% from beyond the arc. Expect coach Eric Musselman to counter this threat by tailing the talented guard with Devo Davis across the court. Down low, the Pride will look to former Hog Abayomi Iyiola to fight for rebounds.
Iyiola was part of Eric Musselman’s first class of incoming Arkansas basketball transfers before the 2019-2020 season, along with the likes of JD Notae and Connor Vanover. The nearly 6’10” big man came from Stetson, where he averaged 10.8 points and 7.6 rebounds a game.
But “Big Baybe” never panned out in the Arkansas basketball program after his mandatory year out and undergoing right knee surgery in summer 2020. Abayomi Iyiola totaled two minutes and a single rebound last season, but has bounced back for Hofstra, averaging 7.1 points and 7.6 rebounds a game this season.
“I’m really happy to watch him and see the success he’s had,” Musselman said in a press conference. “Incredible young man. Worked really, really hard. Had a great attitude while he was here.
“Certainly Coach Claxton and I spoke about Baybe. Everybody on our staff spoke highly of him.”
Iyiola didn’t realize Hofstra was playing the Razorbacks until after he transferred, according to Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
“When I told him last summer that we were playing Arkansas, he was like, ‘Oh my God, Coach. I cannot wait,” Hofstra head coach Speedy Claxton said. “So he’s extremely pumped.
“To his credit, he keeps getting better and better and better week after week after week. Baybe is really trending the right way.”
Arkansas will try to put the pieces together as their squad of athletic defenders attempts to play as a team nearing the close of non-conference play. The Hogs’ woes defending the three have become a verified pattern at this point in the season as they struggle to remedy this weakness. Expect guards Devo Davis and J.D. Notae to play a significant role defensively in this matchup as they irritate a mature Hofstra offense. The largest metric disparity in this matchup stems from Arkansas’ ability to rebound defensively and Hofstra’s inability to secure offensive rebounds. The Razorbacks will need to execute on this disparity and limit second-chance points if they want to hold off a solid Hofstra team on Saturday night.
When Arkansas Has the Ball
On the other side of the floor, Arkansas will have a large advantage. The Razorbacks 31st-ranked offense will look to take advantage of Hofstra’s 253rd-ranked defense. Hofstra is one of the few teams in Division I basketball that is worse at defending the perimeter than Arkansas, allowing opposing teams to shoot 39% from distance. Could this be the game where Arkansas finally finds its rhythm from beyond the arc? In some ways it feels like it is now or never in that aspect and you can expect the Hogs to put up a significant amount of shots from outside on Saturday night. Still, a combination of guards could make a serious scoring impact in this matchup. There is certainly potential for transfer guard Jaxon Robinson to see more time on the court as the sharp shooter looks to get on track from beyond the arc.
The Pride will defend with relatively limited height, a metric where they rank 253rd in the country. This guard-heavy lineup will look to slow down a slew of Razorback weapons. Hofstra will need to limit second chance points against an Arkansas basketball team that can rebound at all positions. Look for Au’Diese Toney and Jaylin Williams to crash the glass and utilize their length and athleticism to bring down offensive rebounds.
Arkansas vs Hofstra: Things To Watch For
The coaching matchup will yet again be an interesting storyline on Saturday night. Eric Musselman will go up against his former NBA player Speedy Claxton. Musselman coached Claxton at Golden State in the early 2000’s and the two shared their bond on twitter.
The two squads are eerily similar in personnel makeup throughout the roster. Kenpom measures personnel with four key indicators: bench minutes, experience, average height, and 2-foul participation. Both coaches utilize bench players for exactly 23% of playing time, both teams average 2.2 years of Division I experience in their primary lineups, the average height of their lineups differs by less than an inch, and they have the same philosophy on handling 2-foul participation. Is Claxton taking a page out of his old coach’s book? It would be a great question to ask during a press conference, but in the meantime there is no denying the similarities between the two squads.
Arkansas vs Hofstra: Game Prediction
In what will be a better matchup than most Arkansas basketball fans would anticipate, this game will likely be decided by single digits. Kenpom predicts an 83-71 finish while Haslametrics predicts a 79-75 victory for the Razorbacks. This matchup should create a high scoring shootout and may come down to the wire in central Arkansas. There is zero doubt that Eric Musselman will have his team amped up for this one as he conveys the importance of a bounce-back win to his Razorback squad. This game could either get the Hogs back on track or could be the second domino of a dangerous collapse nearing the end of non-conference play. Expect Arkansas to pull away near the end of a hard-fought battle.
Arkansas 80, Hofstra 71
Arkansas vs Hofstra: Game Details
Where: North Little Rock, Arkansas (Verizon Arena)
Date: Saturday, December 18th
Time: 7:00 pm
Radio: 92.1 FM
Listen to Razorback Sports Network Online (Tune In)
^ Razorback Gameday App
TV/streaming: Not Available (yes, really)
Live Arkansas vs Hofstra Stats: www.Arkansas.StatBroadcast.com
Arkansas vs Hofstra Game Notes
- This will be the first time Arkansas has ever played in North Little Rock as a ranked team.
- This will be the third all-time meeting between Arkansas and Hofstra. The Razorbacks won both of the previous two and both meetings came in the 1970’s. The last time the two schools met was Jan. 4, 1978, in Pine Bluff – Arkansas’ first ever trip to the city. The 3rd-ranked Razorbacks claimed a 95-70 victory. Sidney Moncrief had a double-double (29 pts on 12-of-16 shooting and 11 rebounds) while Marvin Delph scored 24 (11-of-15 FG).
- While the arena in North Little Rock opened for the 1999-00 season, Arkansas did play in the city four times – winning each – in the early history of the program (1923, 1930, 1936 and 1937) (via Razorback Communications)
Jonah Rapert is the founder of D1CollegeHoops.com and host of The College Basketball Podcast.