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OPINION: NATE ALLEN: Hogs hope to get Smith back, but Black stepping up big

by Nate Allen | November 26, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- This isn't Arkansas' first basketball rodeo with its most heralded freshman lassoed injured to the bench.

6-5 guard Nick Smith so excelled at North Little Rock High School and AAU ball to be voted first-team Preseason All-SEC and projected one-and-done high first-round NBA draft choice.

Smith still hasn't played officially for Coach Eric Musselman's 5-1 Razorbacks.

The UA word expresses Smith undergoing treatment for "right knee management."

Beyond that, who knows?

Observing Smith energetically encouraging teammates, this isn't some prima donna just biding his pre-draft time on the UA's dime. He obviously wants to play if able.

In the meantime the show must go on. Just as it did in 1992-93 when Russellville's Corliss Williamson, Arkansas' only freshman signee with credentials surpassing Smith's, missed the first 11 games injured. Williamson returned to help Nolan Richardson's 22-9 Hogs reach the Sweet Sixteen. Big Nasty starred as the All-American on Richardson's national champion and national runner-up teams of 1993-94 and 1994-95.

During Williamson's 1992-93 absence, unheralded freshman shooting star Scotty Thurman carried the Razorbacks.

Anthony Black, the touted 6-7 freshman point guard from Duncanville, Texas, most carries Musselman's men now with help from transfer forwards Ricky Council and Trevon Brazile.

Black's value in ninth-ranked Arkansas' three games last Monday through Wednesday at the Maui Classic in Hawaii blazed apparent during his presence in the 80-54 rout of Louisville, and 90-87 loss to No. 10 Creighton. His 10:01 to 6:33 first half absence glared in the 78-74 overtime comeback over No. 17 San Diego State.

Black scored 26 points with six assists and three rebounds against Louisville.

Against the much older, and much better than Louisville, Creighton Blue Jays, Black again scored 26 points with six assists and six rebounds.

"Anthony has been unbelievable," Musselman said post Creighton.

Against the also older and adept San Diego State Aztecs, Black amassed his second foul at 10:01 of the first half and Arkansas down only 18-16.

Musselman customarily benches a twice fouling player the remainder of the half.

He reinserted Black with 6:33 before intermission. Musselman had no choice. Minus Black the game slipped down 27-16.

Black's 11 first-half points kept Arkansas within 35-26 hailing distance at intermission.

Statistically, Black, 15 points for the game, didn't impact like Brazile's, 20 points and nine rebounds, and Council, 19 points and four assists, nor could match Kamani Johnson's late game off the heroics.

But with 13 seconds left in regulation Black managed to be fouled and sink both free throws to trail, 67-65. He joined Brazile trapping Lamont Butler for Brazile's steal, then with :07 left fired Arkansas' 2-point attempt for the overtime tie. Black missed but wisely launched quickly enough for Johnson's buzzer-beating putback achieving, 67-67 overtime.

Musselman still salivates to play Nick Smith in Razorbacks red.

Meanwhile his freshman point guard keeps their ledger in the Black.

Print Headline: No Smith, no problem for Hogs so far


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