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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Muss' Razorbacks more than solid in victory

by Wally Hall | January 30, 2022 at 3:00 a.m.

It was officially the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Arkansas, though, never trailed, led by as much as 19 early in the second half and won 77-68 over West Virginia on Saturday.

It probably could have been more lopsided, but Eric Musselman called off the Hogs in the last couple of minutes and had them run the clock out.

Perhaps it wasn't Arkansas' best total effort of the season, but it was a good one and it was able to lead from start to finish. The Razorbacks played like a team.

Both teams had a total of 23 field goals and 11 of the Razorbacks' baskets came off assists. Six players had an assist.

Musselman played eight Hogs. Seven scored and seven had rebounds.

What they did the best as a team was shoot free throws -- making 28 of 34 -- which really presented a dilemma for West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins.

The Mountaineers hit a rare three-pointer -- they were 7 of 26 behind the arc -- to get within 68-62 with 4:25 left.

At that point, most coaches would be considering when to start fouling the other team in hopes of getting misses with the clock stopped.

Huggins didn't have that luxury with the Razorbacks hitting 82% from the free-throw line.

A look at the box score shows a pretty big disparity in fouls called -- 29 for West Virginia, 18 for Arkansas -- but it wasn't some sort of plot by the officials.

The Mountaineers did too much reaching and grabbing and got caught by the officials and the TV camera.

West Virginia came into the game licking some wounds having lost four consecutive games, but they were to Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma.

The Jayhawks are No. 7 in the NCAA NET rankings, the Bears No. 3, the Red Raiders No. 15 and the Sooners No. 16.

Those are the four best teams in the Big 12.

Arkansas played like it would relish a challenge game with any of those teams.

The Razorbacks played most of the first half, when they took a 38-29 lead, without JD Notae, their leading scorer.

He opened the scoring with a three pointer but with 16:34 to play in the first half he picked up his second foul and found himself watching his teammates from the bench until the start of the second half.

Notae would end up being one of four Razorbacks scoring in double figures with Au'Diese Toney leading the way with 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

Toney, a senior transfer from Pittsburgh, also had seven rebounds and three assists.

Notae had 15 points, Stanley Umude and Jaylin Williams finished with 12 points.

The TV announcers continue to rave about Williams, a 6-10 sophomore from Fort Smith.

Arkansas has won six consecutive games and in five of those Williams has had a double-double with rebounds and scoring. He missed a sixth by two rebounds.

He's also taking charges and blocking shots.

What seems apparent is that after starting the SEC season 0-3, Musselman decided to remake his team. He did it last year in January, too.

This time he's bringing Devo Davis off the bench as a spark plug. Last season, the remake was when Davis started.

What Musselman has mostly done is get his team's attention about the importance of playing as hard on the defensive end as they do on offense.

West Virginia shot 38% from the field, including 26.9% on threes, and if not for the second-half run, it would not have look like much of a challenge.

Down the stretch. the Hogs made free throws, Davis got a key steal that led to a Toney field goal and Notae hit a short jumper. In the end, Arkansas got a win because it won almost every challenge.

Print Headline: Muss' Razorbacks more than solid in victory


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