Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Answers can become questions
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman looks toward play on the court during a game against Georgia on Jan. 9, 2021, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Over the long hauls of college basketball and baseball seasons, yesterday’s answers often become today’s questions.
Last spring before covid-19 canceled all college sports from mid-March until, for most, some point last autumn, Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks played just 16 games in major college baseball’s typical 5-games-per-week schedule.
Yet already Van Horn had sat for a game slumping shortstop Casey Martin to regroup.
A Preseason All-American, Martin was integral to successive College World Series teams and third-round drafted last June by the Philadelphia Phillies.
So even the best of answers inevitably slide to questions at some point during a long season.
Take Eric Musselman’s basketball Razorbacks.
“Please,” Musselman said, seemingly almost ready to apply Henny Youngman’s old comic line about Henny’s wife, such the Arkansas coach’s acerbic despair rehashing the Razorbacks trailing LSU by 31 last Wednesday with nearly 14 minutes left in the first half before losing, 92-76 in Baton Rouge, La.
Just the previous game Arkansas routed Georgia, 99-69.
Musselman praised to the skies freshman guard Davonte “Devo” Davis, grad-transfer forward Vance Jackson and grad-transfer point guard Jalen Tate.
They certainly deserved it. Against Georgia, reserve guard Davis scored a career-high 20 points in his second start.
Jackson scored 15 points, including 4 of 5 3-point attempts, and played good defense.
Tate also scored 15 points. Even point guard better, against Georgia, Tate zipped 10 assists — two more than Arkansas totaled as a team against LSU.
Tate scored 6 points with 1 assist vs. 4 turnovers in Baton Rouge. Davis and Jackson combined shooting 2 of 19 from the field.
“I mean, really it’s hard to win when you got a guy go 1 of 8 and a guy go 1 of 11,” Musselman said. “We didn’t have good point guard play at all. And quite frankly our defense was just as bad.”
Seems unbelievable now post Arkansas’ Wednesday Waterloo but it was only two Wednesdays ago that LSU Coach Will Wade fretted his Tigers’ defense against Georgia. LSU in Baton Rouge escaped Georgia, 94-92 in overtime.
Even sustained success seldom lingers long enough before answers become questions.
Remember in September when Alabama’s Crimson Tide football defense so struggled to outlast Ole Miss, 63-48 that some wrote and broadcast that Nick Saban got “outcoached?”
Heard “outcoached” lately after Saban’s sixth Alabama national championship?
Now red-hot Alabama basketball Coach Nate Oats is 5-0 in the SEC, leading the league off routing Kentucky to host Arkansas today.
Yet it’s the Tide scrambling to replace injured starting forwards Herb Jones and Jordan Bruner, with starting point Jahvon Quinerly three games idled by a “medical condition.”
Sure it’s cliche to say college basketball conference races are marathons not sprints.
But covering enough stumbling league starts from some of Eddie Sutton’s and Nolan Richardson’s greater Arkansas teams, and recalling some hot early teams left out in the NCAA Tournament cold, reminds that most cliches last because they’re true.
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