Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Hogs go 4-0 in Europe behind Brazile’s big game
Arkansas forward Trevon Brazile catches a pass for a dunk during the Razorbacks' exhibition against Valencia Seleccion on Aug. 9, 2022, in Valencia, Spain. (Photo courtesy of Rachael Harris, Arkansas Athletics)
The hotel where the University of Arkansas basketball team stayed in Italy is a block from Lake Como.
The scenic body of water covers 56 square miles, which is about how big the basket must have looked to Razorbacks forward Trevon Brazile at the PalaSampietro gymnasium on Monday in Como.
Brazile, a 6-10 sophomore transfer from Missouri, hit 13 of 15 shots and scored 28 points to lead Arkansas to a 70-59 victory over the Bakken Bears — a professional team from Denmark that featured several Americans.
The only two shots Brazile missed were three-point attempts. He went 9 of 9 from the field in the first half — including a three-pointer — and finished 12 of 12 on two-point attempts. He hit his only free throw and also had 9 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 assists in 35 minutes.
“I thought he played incredible,” Razorbacks Coach Eric Musselman said.
Brazile shot 29 of 34 from the field (85.3%) in Arkansas’ four exhibition games to help Arkansas go undefeated. He was 5 of 5 in the Razorbacks’ 107-59 victory over Valencia Seleccion, 7 of 10 in their 98-86 victory over Catalan Elite and 4 of 4 in their 75-54 victory over Orange 1 Basket Bassano.
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“I know it’s exhibition games and all that, but he played as well as any guy that I’ve seen play over a four-game stretch,” Musselman said. “I mean, if you look at his numbers, they’re absolutely insane, what he’s done.
“He’s just so quick to the ball, he’s so long. He runs the floor. He can play facing the basket, he can play with his back to the basket.
“I thought he was just unbelievable. He’s got an incredible, incredible future ahead of him as well.”
Brazile had five dunks against Bakken, including a one-handed putback when he soared over the rim after a miss by Jordan Walsh and flushed the ball through the basket in one swift motion to give the Razorbacks a 24-9 lead in the second quarter.
“That all happened so quick,” Brazile when asked to describe the highlight play. “I just saw the ball, and I didn’t even try to dunk it. I wasn’t even thinking about that.
“I was just trying to rebound it because I grab rebounds with one hand a lot. So I just grabbed the rebound and the rim was right there.”
Freshman guard Nick Smith, who averaged 18 points in the Razorbacks’ first three games, played 13 minutes Monday and sat out the second half after sustaining what Musselman said was diagnosed as a sprained knee.
“We think he’s going to be fine,” Musselman said. “He slipped on the floor. The knee was checked out by the trainer and doctor. First-degree sprain.
“Probably in a regular-season game, we would have let him get loose at halftime, and he probably would have played. I was not going to jeopardize him at this time of the year to play.”
Smith had 5 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist. He hit 2 of 7 shots.
“Nick pretty much led us in scoring every game [before the injury],” Arkansas junior guard Ricky Council said. “He was playing with great tempo. Great pace.
“Trevon, obviously, he was pretty consistent with the scoring and he stepped it up tonight because Nick was out.”
Council had 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 35 minutes off the bench. Senior forward Kamani Johnson had 8 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals.
Junior guard Davonte “Devo” Davis had 10 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, but also had a team-high 7 turnovers.
“Devo has to take better care of the ball than he did tonight,” Musselman said.
Freshman guard Anthony Black had a team-high 7 assists, 4 points and 3 rebounds, but 5 turnovers.
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The Razorbacks had 30 turnovers, including 4 by Council and 3 by Walsh, a freshman forward.
“The turnovers are ridiculous,” Musselman said. “Words can’t describe how concerned I am about our turnovers.
“When you play high school basketball, turnovers are accepted because your talent can take over. You can’t turn over the ball in the SEC and win. There’s too many close games.
“So now we have concrete evidence to show guys what we have to do better.”
Bakken’s roster has several Americans, including Skyler Bowlin, who is from Paragould and played at Greene County Tech High School and collegiately at Missouri Southern.
Bowlin, 33, is a 6-4 guard who has played in Europe for several seasons. He had 9 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists with 4 turnovers against the Razorbacks. He hit 1 of 12 shots and 6 of 7 free throws.
“We didn’t want Skyler to get off and have a good game,” Musselman said. “He’s from Arkansas. Family members are tweeting [about the game].
“We put a target on him and we did a great job on him, and we did a good job on some of their other American players. We knew that their center [Elijah Childs] is one of the best centers in Europe.”
Childs, 23, is 6-8 and was an All-Missouri Conference player at Bradley. He had 10 points and six rebounds. Ryan Evans, 32, is a 6-6 guard and four-year starter at Wisconsin who had eight points and five rebounds.
Bakken beat Drexel 70-63 on Saturday.
“They were a good team,” Musselman said. “They were well coached. They’re really experienced.”
The Razorbacks jumped out to a 20-5 lead in the first quarter when the Bears shot 1 of 13 and had 11 turnovers.
“I’ve been a little bit concerned about our defense through three games,” Musselman said. “But tonight against a good team — a smart team, a team that cuts well — we were phenomenal.
“They could not even get good looks at the rim in the first quarter. Then as the game progressed, they got a little bit more confidence, we subbed and the defense kind of slipped a little bit.”
Arkansas shot 8 of 16 in the first quarter, including 5 of 5 for Brazile.
Council made an alley-oop pass to Brazile for a dunk that pushed the Razorbacks’ lead to 14-2.
“I don’t know if it’s the European rims or what,” Brazile said of shooting so well on the tour. “I put in a lot of work this summer.
“Just getting touches around the rim, being efficient around the rim was a big thing for me.”
Council, a transfer from Wichita State, said he’s never previously had a teammate with Brazile’s skill set around the basket.
“I always wanted to play with somebody where I could just throw the ball up and he would get it, and that’s what you get with Trevon,” Council said. “He’s so versatile, and he’s just a great player to play with.”
Brazile had 16 rebounds in the last two games after Musselman called him out in his media interview for having one rebound against Catalan Select.
“He got the message alright,” Musselman said. “He got the message loud and clear.”
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