Head Coach Eric Musselman and his Arkansas Razorbacks entered Saturday’s game against Ole Miss on a four-game losing streak and they were desperate for a win. Less than a week later, the Hogs have won two games in a row and they seem to be finding a rhythm.
Four of Arkansas’ first six conference games were on the road, and it lost them all, two in double digits. The Hogs returned home for a two-game home streak, starting against the Rebels with a 67-57 win on Saturday, then outscoring LSU in a 60-40 loss on Wednesday.
Although the Tigers and Ole Miss are both bottom of the SEC standings, getting a conference win is important for a team like Arkansas that was looking for any type of identity this time around last week. .
“Certainly when the calendar came out and we had four of our top six on the road,” Musselman said. “We’d love to play some of those games on the road, just because maybe we’re gaining momentum a bit. We are a more confident team.
“I don’t think our young guys and maybe some of our new guys really knew what to expect in the SEC going on the road – not that it’s going to change the results when we go on the road next time in the SEC or Baylor, but I think there’s an ‘Okay, now we kind of know what the expectations can be’, when I think there were a lot of unknowns in those early games on the road.”
Arkansas’ defense has been incredible the past two games, especially in Tuesday’s win over LSU, when it held the Tigers to just 40 points, the second-fewest by an SEC opponent in the league. history of the Arkansas program. LSU became only the sixth team to score 40 or fewer points in a game against the Razorbacks in the shot clock and 3-point era.
In the win over Ole Miss, the Hogs racked up double-digit steals (12) for the first time since Dec. 21 against UNC Asheville. He also scored the most steals for Arkansas in an SEC game since Jan. 22, 2022 against Texas A&M.
Musselman said after that game that the defensive game plan didn’t change, it was just executed well. The defense did even better against LSU on Tuesday.
“In defense we were just closing,” Anthony Black said. “They just couldn’t do anything. They couldn’t get anything. Like I don’t think they even know what to do because they just couldn’t get anything.”
Another encouraging development has been the emergence of a vocal leader in Davonte Davis, who also plays at a very high level. Musselman said he was waiting for internal leadership and that was finally starting to show from Davis.
“One of the themes is that this is a band that does a great job of listening and trying to do the right things,” Musselman said. “But sometimes a little quiet, unlike some of our other teams who we kind of knew Jaylin Williams was going to be really, really vocal; Mason Jones really, really vocal; JD Notae knew exactly what we wanted. We had some – Jimmy Whitt, Jalen Tate – real vocal dudes, and we need Devo to keep evolving into that dude for us.”
Davis leads by example by going to the gym often. Musselman even mentioned that Davis was almost done, if not finished, with his shootout by the time Musselman walked into the facility Saturday morning before the Ole Miss game.
After his 16-point, 7-rebound outing against LSU on Tuesday, Davis said the team was headed in the right direction.
“I’m just going to keep working hard and keep working and making sure these guys are all doing the same thing,” Davis said. “We’re going to keep improving as a team and keep winning. We’ve dug ourselves a hole so we need to bounce back from those few losses we’ve had and get ready for Baylor on Saturday. Hope you’re all ready.”
Arkansas travels to Waco, Texas for a game against the No. 17 Baylor Bears on Saturday in the SEC/Big-12 Challenge. The match kicks off at 3:00 p.m. CT and will be streamed on ESPN.
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