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Sooners withered when Hogs turned up heat

by Wally Hall | December 11, 2022 at 3:00 a.m.

Oklahoma is a good basketball team. Arkansas was just better.

Both teams were well-coached and prepared, but Eric Musselman continues to out-recruit himself and the Razorbacks had too much offense with four scorers finish in double figures in Tulsa on Saturday, and Anthony Black would have been if he had shot more than four times.

The freshman made them all and added five assists and four rebounds.

All five Arkansas starters are in their first seasons as Razorbacks. The four who did the majority of the scoring were Ricky Council with 26 points, Nick Smith 21, Jordan Walsh 12 and Makhi Mitchell had 10 and six rebounds.

With 7:27 to play in the fist half, the Hogs trailed 30-23 and the Sooners were hotter than an Arizona Labor Day, hitting 13 of their first 17 shots.

In the TV timeout, Musselman got his players attention and Oklahoma finished the first half 5 of 12 and trailing 43-40.

In the final 27:27, Arkansas outscored OU 65-48 for a 88-78 win, a quality win that could weigh heavily in the team NET ranking.

Might as well get this out there: If Smith had been healthy in Hawaii, there would have been no 90-87 loss to Creighton and the Hogs would be undefeated.

The Blue Jays haven't won since that Nov. 22 game in Maui and the Razorbacks have gotten Smith back from an injury and appear to be getting better with each game.

Although they probably haven only scratched the surface as far as potential.

In his first three seasons, the teams Musselman put on the floor early in the season were not the same teams he had at the finish.

It might have been the same players, but he molds them into better players and a team.

On Saturday, when Walsh made a steal and a dunk with 14:36 to play, they could have the put the bows on that one. It was wrapped up.

That completed a run of eight made shots for the Hogs.

Their plan was obvious: They laid off the threes, which is not a strength, and went to work in the paint.

Of Arkansas' 88 points, 58 were in the hard work zone.

Evidenced by the scoring, it was a team effort which was highlighted with 19 assists. That's unselfish basketball and after Musselman turned up the heat, the defense took care of business.

They forced 17 turnovers and blocked five shots.

At times, OU was throwing something at the rim rather than turn it over as the Hogs' heat made them change their shots more times than not.

Give the Sooners credit. They never gave up, not even after early in the second half when Porter Moser had to take back-to-back timeouts because they couldn't inbound the ball. When they finally did, they turned it over.

It was vastly different than last season when the two met and OU jumped in front 13-0 and roared to a 88-66 win.

Even though the Sooners led by as much as nine in the early going, Musselman and his newbies never panicked, chipping at the lead with high percentage shots and defense.

The Razorbacks didn't get their first lead until there was 1:43 to play in the first half and that took a three-point play by Council. But it was a lead they refused to lose and slowly pulled away in the second half, when they made those eight consecutive shots.

From that point on, the gutsy and game Sooners couldn't get closer than 10 and trailed by as much as 16. Arkansas had so many different players scoring, OU couldn't stop them.

Arkansas is now off until Saturday, when they play Bradley at Simmons Bank Arena in Little Rock. Then they host UNC-Asheville in Bud Walton before a week off for Christmas.

On Dec. 28 in Baton Rouge, they open conference play and they will be ready.

Print Headline: Sooners withered when Hogs turned up heat


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