FAYETTEVILLE -- When University of Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe played 28 minutes in the Razorbacks' 98-79 victory over Tulsa on Dec. 14, it wasn't because Coach Eric Musselman decided to give him a break in a lopsided game.
Joe's foul trouble was responsible for his season low in minutes played.
Joe sat out a 2:41 span in the first half after drawing his second foul, and a 2:40 span in the second half after drawing his fourth foul.
"You sound like my wife," Musselman said with a smile when asked about Joe's minutes. "She's always asking if I'm going to rest guys.
"I mean, we rested him because he had fouls, really. That's probably the least amount of minutes he'll play all year."
Through 11 games, Joe is averaging 37.1 minutes, which ranks second in the SEC behind Alabama point guard Kira Lewis' 37.2 minutes and 15th nationally.
Joe, a 6-5 sophomore from Fort Smith, is playing 90.7% of the minutes in the Razorbacks' games -- including 43 in a 62-61 overtime victory at Georgia Tech and 42 in an 86-79 overtime loss at Western Kentucky -- after playing 74.7% last season when he averaged 30.7 minutes.
"Every coach, every program has their own philosophy on that," Musselman said of how playing time is divided. "I'd rather have a tired Isaiah Joe shooting than somebody else."
Joe played 39 minutes and led the Razorbacks (10-1) with 21 points in their 72-68 victory over Valparaiso on Saturday night in North Little Rock. He hit 5 of 16 shots -- including 5 of 14 three-pointers -- and 6 of 7 free throws. He also had 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 blocked shot.
"Oh, I'm feeling good," Joe said before the game. "It's just a matter of having your body in the right condition. You get a little bit tired, but you've got to be so well-conditioned and getting enough rest that in games when you're playing that many minutes, you're able to produce the whole time."
So far Joe has produced an average of 16.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
"I think he's played really well," Musselman said. "You look at his numbers, and he's had a great year so far."
While Joe's averages are up across the board, his shooting percentage is down. He's at 36.8% on field goals (57 of 155) and 34.2% on three-pointers (39 of 114) after shooting 41.3% and 41.4%, respectively, last season. His free-throw shooting is up at 80.0% (32 of 40) after being at 75.6% as a freshman.
Musselman pointed to the loss of 6-11 Daniel Gafford -- a second-round NBA Draft pick by the Chicago Bulls who averaged 16.9 points last season at Arkansas -- for affecting Joe's shooting.
"With Daniel here, you're just going to get more open looks on the perimeter," said Musselman, who coached at Nevada the previous four seasons. "When I got the job here, one of the first things I did was try to collect scouting reports from other teams that played the Razorbacks last year.
"Out of the 12 scouting reports, Daniel was such a focal point of either doubling down or keeping the lane compact or sagging in the lane. I think think that gives you a few more open looks."
Musselman said the Arkansas coaching staff has traded scouting reports with some nonconference opponents this season.
"We've gotten great feedback from other teams that we've played," he said. "Right now, Isaiah's a big part -- if not the main part -- of an opposing scouting report. So he's going to have no airspace, and it's going to make things more difficult to get clean, open looks."
Musselman said Joe remains a focal point of opposing defenses even with Arkansas junior guard Mason Jones averaging a team-high 19.6 points.
"I think just his reputation of what [Joe] did last year as a shooter," Musselman said. "And I certainly think scouting reports change on a nightly basis. Mason is a guy that people are overly concerned with as well."
Joe is on pace to average the third-most minutes by a Razorback in the past 41 seasons, according to Hogstats.com. Sidney Moncrief averaged 38.6 minutes in 1978-79, and U.S. Reed averaged 37.9 in 1979-80.
"At the beginning of the year, it felt a lot different because I wasn't used to playing that many minutes," Joe said. "But I'm starting to warm up to it. Starting to get used to it and learning to play my game through the whole course of those 37 minutes."
Joe is one of four Razorbacks averaging at least 30 minutes per game, along with senior guard Jimmy Whitt (35.7), Jones (32.0) and sophomore guard Desi Sills (30.0).
"In practice, we don't go live a lot," Musselman said. "The reason we don't go live a lot is to try to save their bodies and keep their bodies fresh. We do a lot of mental reps."
Joe made the most of his 28 minutes against Tulsa, scoring 20 points and hitting 8 of 14 shots, including 4 of 10 three-pointers. Jones had a career-high 41 points in that game.
"One word -- pro," Jones said when asked about how Joe has handled his increased workload. "Zay's a pro. To be a pro, you have to handle the minutes that Coach Muss gives you.
"Zay doesn't cry about the minutes. He just says, 'I've got to get ready. I've got to get in shape.' "
Musselman said the defensive attention opponents pay to Joe creates good shots for his teammates.
"He helps everybody else get easier looks," Musselman said. "So I'm probably not going to rest him."
Joe smiled when asked about Musselman's comment that a tired version of himself is still better than most players at their best.
"It just shows the amount of trust he has in me," Joe said. "It gives me a lot of confidence on the court, being able to play freely in his system."
ARKANSAS MEN AT INDIANA
WHEN 5 p.m. Central Sunday
WHERE Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
RECORDS Arkansas 10-1; Indiana 11-1
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
TELEVISION Big Ten Network
DATE OPPONENT TIME/RESULT
Nov. 5 Rice W, 91-43
Nov. 12 North Texas W, 66-43
Nov. 16 Montana+ W, 64-46
Nov. 19 Texas Southern+ W, 82-51
Nov. 22 South Dakota+ W, 77-56
Nov. 25 at Georgia Tech W, 62-61 (OT)
Nov. 30 N. Kentucky+ W, 66-60
Dec. 3 Austin Peay W, 69-61
Dec. 7 at W. Kentucky L, 86-79 (OT)
Dec. 14 Tulsa W, 98-79
Dec. 21 Valparaiso^ W, 72-68
Dec. 29 at Indiana 5 p.m.
Jan. 4 Texas A&M* 6 p.m.
Jan. 8 at LSU* 8 p.m.
Jan. 11 at Mississippi* 5 p.m.
Jan. 15 Vanderbilt* 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 18 Kentucky* 3 p.m.
Jan. 22 at Mississippi State* 6 p.m.
Jan. 25 TCU# 3 p.m.
Jan. 29 South Carolina* 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 at Alabama* 5 p.m.
Feb. 4 Auburn* 6 p.m.
Feb. 8 at Missouri* 2:30 p.m.
Feb. 11 at Tennessee* 6 p.m.
Feb. 15 Mississippi State* noon
Feb. 18 at Florida* 6 p.m.
Feb. 22 Missouri* noon
Feb. 26 Tennessee* 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 29 at Georgia* 5 p.m.
Mar. 4 LSU* 6 p.m.
Mar. 7 at Texas A&M* 3:30 p.m.
Mar. 11-15 SEC Tournament, Nashville, Tenn.
+Collegiate Hoops Roadshow
^at Simmons Bank Arena, North Little Rock
#Big 12/SEC Challenge
Sports on 12/27/2019
Print Headline: Hogs' Isaiah Joe rarely asked to leave the floor