FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas basketball team made sure it christened Nolan Richardson Court with a victory.
The Razorbacks beat the University of Arkansas at Little Rock 79-64 on Sunday in an exhibition game in Walton Arena before an announced crowd of 7,384.
Before tipoff, the signature of Richardson -- complete with the old-school slobbering Hog -- was unveiled on both sides of the court in honor of the coach who led the Razorbacks to a school-record 389 victories and three Final Four appearances in 17 seasons, including the 1994 national championship.
About 40 of Richardson's former players, assistant coaches and staff members joined him on the court.
"You think it's all over, then something else happens and you get another award," said Richardson, who by his count is in 13 different halls of fame. "This one is probably the final and the ultimate."
Arkansas senior forward Jeantal Cylla said watching the pregame ceremony fired up the Razorbacks.
"We had motivation coming into the game," Cylla said. "But that right there I think gave us a little bit more motivation to go out and play hard. We're just trying to continue their legacy."
Playing UALR, even if it was an exhibition game, also provided the Razorbacks with some additional incentive.
"We knew they were going to come at us hard, because they're the underdogs of the state, and everybody wants to be on top," said sophomore guard Isaiah Joe, who led Arkansas with 25 points. "So we just had to come out with that extra edge."
Arkansas -- which had a starting lineup of Joe, Cylla, sophomore guard Desi Sills, senior guard Jimmy Whitt and senior forward Adrio Bailey -- jumped out to a 19-3 lead.
"That group was phenomenal from an execution standpoint, both sides of the ball," Razorbacks Coach Eric Musselman said.
The Trojans regrouped and pulled within 26-22. Arkansas led 35-26 at halftime and was ahead by as many as 26 points, 56-30, after a Joe three-pointer with 14:46 left.
UALR got as close as 75-62 in the second half, which encouraged Coach Darrell Walker considering the Trojans hit just 13 of 30 free throws.
"Overall, I feel really good about my young basketball team," said Walker, a former Arkansas All-American guard. "I think we're big. I think we're athletic, and we've got some wings.
"I think we're going to be pretty good, especially when Sun Belt Conference time comes around."
Cylla, a 6-7 graduate transfer from North Carolina-Wilmington, had 13 points and six rebounds.
"I thought J.C. was awesome because he just kind of blends in and then you look at the stat sheet and you're like, 'Oh, he rebounded the ball pretty decent. He made some shots,' " said Musselman, who is in his first season at Arkansas. "I thought he did a really, really good job for us."
Whitt, a graduate transfer from SMU, had 7 points, a team-high 9 rebounds and 2 assists. Sills had 12 points, 4 rebounds and 3 rebounds before leaving the game with 10:09 left because of a leg cramp, and Bailey had 8 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists.
Nikola Maric, a 6-10 sophomore, led UALR with 14 points and nine rebounds. Kamani Johnson, a 6-7 sophomore, had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
"Give Coach Walker's team a lot of credit," Musselman said. "They did not stop playing."
The Razorbacks had 18 turnovers, with several coming against the press.
"We were abysmal against the press," Musselman said. "It hasn't bothered our teams in the past, but I thought from a spacing standpoint, we looked disorganized. It's also hard to play with the lead, quite frankly, with any team."
The Razorbacks hit 13 of 35 three-pointers, with Joe hitting 8 of 17.
"I thought he was awesome," Musselman said.
Walker played and coached in the NBA and had some advice for Joe.
"I told the young fella that he's got a chance to play at the next level," Walker said. "I told him he needed to stay in the weight room. And I told him he had to learn how to pump fake and put that ball on the floor two or three hard dribbles and raise up and shoot it.
"Once he does that, he's going to have a chance, a legitimate chance. He's on the NBA's radar already."
Three Razorbacks fouled out -- junior guard Mason Jones, senior guard Jalen Harris and sophomore forward Reggie Chaney -- while playing fewer than 20 minutes.
Arkansas committed 26 fouls, which Musselman said likely was a carryover from physical practices.
"[The Trojans] weren't a great free-throw shooting team, and that helped out in our favor," Joe said. "But some teams are going to be able to knock down free throws from 70 to 80%, and that's going to hurt us in the future.
"So we've got to learn how to cut down on all those fouls."
Three transfers who are redshirting this season -- Connor Vanover, JD Notae and Abayomi Iyiola -- didn't dress out for Sunday's game, giving Arkansas nine eligible scholarship players. The UA has appealed to the NCAA to grant Vanover immediate eligibility this season, but has not received a ruling.
"I think Eric is going to try to figure out, 'When can I go small and when do I have to go big?' " Walker said. "So he's going to be playing chess the whole season.
"You're going to see a lot of different lineups out there. I do like their wing players. They shoot the ball well. If they go small and they're shooting the ball well, and they can rebound the ball, it's going to be a problem for some of the teams in the SEC. I can see that coming."
Musselman said he enjoyed the pregame ceremony.
"First of all, I think the court looks awesome," he said. "I think the administration did a phenomenal job. It's a classy look the way they did it.
"Coach Richardson, legendary coach. It's kind of a little bit unique that the first time I step on the floor I look out there and see [former players] Todd Day and Corey Beck, all these dudes that I have incredible admiration for.
"I'm new to it. I just kind of stood back and watched and was just appreciative that the student-athletes and our staff were a small part of it."
Sports on 10/21/2019
Print Headline: Signature victory: Razorbacks unveil Nolan Richardson Court with win