Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
'No surprise whatsoever': Jackson impresses with 3-point flurry
Arkansas' Vance Jackson (2) is guarded by Mississippi Valley State's Ronald Williams (13) during a game Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Vance Jackson smiled when asked about his first shot attempt in Arkansas' season opener against Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday.
His 3-pointer from the right wing missed everything. Jackson claims the ball slipped from his hands as he released it.
But it was smooth sailing for him after that point.
A graduate transfer from New Mexico, Jackson quickly put the miss in the rearview and hit the Delta Devils with a barrage of first-half triples, finishing his Razorback debut with 15 points on 5 of 9 from the floor and 4 of 6 beyond the arc.
He was one of eight Arkansas players to reach double figures in the 142-62 win.
"I felt good. I felt ready and prepared," Jackson said. "It just felt good to play basketball again."
Jackson's first score was a pull-up 3 in transition. Twenty-three seconds later, he buried his second triple. He then connected on his third and fourth 3-pointers over a 26-second span.
That flurry from the perimeter was a good way to make up for the airball early on, Jackson said.
"I just had to stay poised and stay focused, and just knock it down," he said. "I’m in the gym every day putting in the work. You see the results."
Jackson's fourth 3-pointer pushed him over a significant personal milestone. He entered Wednesday needing only 10 points to hit 1,000 in his college career, which has taken him from UConn to New Mexico and now Fayetteville.
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman, who first faced Jackson in the Mountain West Conference as the coach at Nevada, said the grad transfer did an excellent job playing within himself in the blowout win.
"Having played against Vance and seeing him every day in practice, we know he’s one of the nation’s best 3-point shooters," Musselman said. "He gets his feet set and he gets his rhythm, which he did after that first shot. We know he’s lethal from three. We need Vance to get more loose balls and to rebound the ball a little bit better, but offensively, no surprise whatsoever.
"The big thing with Vance is just doing it consistently because in the Mountain West I thought he was one of the best players in the country on any given night. It’s going to be very important for Vance to, every single night through 27 games, to get himself mentally focused and mentally ready to play like he did tonight."
Jackson, who did not see the floor over the final 15-plus minutes of the game, capped his scoring night with an impressive and-1 putback early in the second half. He did all of his damage in 15 minutes, 29 seconds on the floor.
As a team, Arkansas knocked down 20 of 40 3-point attempts. Seven players made at least two threes, and Jackson and Connor Vanover each added four.
Vanover, who scored 23 points, noted that when Jackson got hot in the first half, that is when the Razorbacks' offense took off. The duo accounted for 20 points during Arkansas' 28-0 first-half run that ballooned its lead to 41-8.
"It's great having other people who can really shoot on the floor because it's just very dangerous having multiple people on the floor at a time who can shoot," Vanover said of Jackson. "It's really huge to have other pieces like Vance on the court to really stretch the defense and get some nice buckets."
Jackson finished the win with seven rebounds, including two on the offensive end. Only freshman forward Jaylin Williams (10) and Vanover (8) grabbed more boards for the Razorbacks.
With an impressive start to the season now under his belt, Jackson is eager to see the team progress throughout the schedule.
"We’ve been practicing for a very long time, getting a feel for each other, so I feel like we’re all meshing together real smoothly," he said. "And as the season goes I feel like there will be even more of a heartbeat to get this thing done.
"I just want to keep going and win as many games as possible."
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