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Motivated opener: Notae’s 30 points lift Hogs

by Bob Holt | November 10, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.
Arkansas guard Au'Diese Toney dunks the ball during a game against Mercer on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Who knew JD Notae had it in for Mercer?

Turns out Notae, the University of Arkansas senior guard from Covington, Ga., was extra motivated to play the Bears on Tuesday night in the Razorbacks' season opener.

"A lot of people don't know this, but coming up in high school we used to go to Mercer's camp every year," Notae said of the Southern Conference school in Macon, Ga. "They didn't offer me coming out of high school, so this game is kind of personal to me."

Notae took Mercer's lack of interest in him so personally that he scored 30 points to lead the No. 16 Razorbacks to a 74-61 victory at Walton Arena.

"I didn't know the background on it," Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said of Notae's extra motivation against Mercer. "That's good to know. I guess I wish I would have known pregame. He did not discuss that with me at all.

Gallery: Arkansas defeats Mercer 74-61

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"Obviously, we needed JD's points. He's been working on those logo shots. Took a couple. One was decent."

As a sophomore at Jacksonville (Fla.) University, Notae scored a career-high 40 points against Florida Memorial, but his previous high in his lone season at Arkansas was 27 points against Missouri in last year's SEC Tournament.

Notae became the 50th Razorback to score 30 or more points in a game and first since Mason Jones in a 77-68 loss at Texas A&M two years ago.

Tuesday night marked the 134th game in which an Arkansas player scored 30 or more points.

"I mean, it's a big deal," Notae said of scoring 30 points. "I feel like I left a lot out there, and I've just got to be better."

Notae hit 11 of 25 shots, including 5 of 14 three-pointers and 3 of 4 three throws.

"He had 30 and shot 26 times so he did get them going, but it was more about our turnovers," Mercer Coach Greg Gary said. "I think without those turnovers and steals, he only gets like 22.

"I'm guessing that was a big thing in the game -- what I call pick sixes. You get a a steal and it turns into dunks and threes and layups and all that stuff."

The Bears had 18 turnovers -- including seven steals by Notae -- and were outscored by the Razorbacks 21-10 in points off turnovers.

Turning up the heat defensively helped Arkansas rally from a 36-28 halftime deficit. They trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half at 34-24.

"He wasn't very happy," Notae said of Musselman's mood at halftime. "He said we gave up too many threes, which we did.

"The second half we came out there and just tried to limit their three-point shots."

Mercer finished 13 of 31 on three-pointers after being 8 of 17 in the first half.

"With JD shooting the gap and clogging up the paint and getting steals and having momentum, we got it and the crowd got into it," said Arkansas senior guard Au'Diese Toney, a transfer from Pittsburgh who had 18 points and 11 rebounds. "And everybody fed off the crowd and fed off JD. So that's what turned the ballgame around the second half."

Arkansas sophomore forward Jaylin Williams, who has missed some practices because of back spasms came off the bench and had a team-high 5 assists with 8 rebounds and 4 points.

Sophomore guard Davonte Davis didn't attempt a shot or free throw in 34 minutes, but Musselman praised his defensive effort.

Notae, the SEC sixth man of the year last season when he averaged 12.8 points per game off the bench, started Tuesday and figures to stay in the lineup.

Senior guard Chris Lykes, a senior transfer from Miami, helped provide a spark off Arkansas' bench with 16 points. He hit 7 of 8 free throws and his three-pointer with 8:42 left gave the Razorbacks the lead for good at 56-54.

"Just knowing you could be a starter on this team, you've got to just accept that role knowing that Coach Muss is going to put you in the best position to be successful," Notae said. "And I think [Lykes has] accepted that very well."

Print Headline: Motivated opener: Notae’s 30 points lift Hogs


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