Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Sooners withered when Hogs turned up the heat
Arkansas guard/forward Jordan Walsh (13) dunks, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, during the second half of the Razorbacks’ 88-78 win over the Oklahoma Sooners at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. Visit nwaonline.com/photo for the photo gallery.
Oklahoma is a good basketball team. Arkansas was just better.
Both teams were well-coached and prepared, but Eric Musselman continues to out-recruit himself and the Razorbacks had too much offense with four scorers in double figures in Tulsa on Saturday. Anthony Black would have been if he had shot more than four times.
The freshman made them all and added five assists and four rebounds.
All five Arkansas starters are in their first season with the Razorbacks. The four who did the majority of the scoring were Ricky Council with 26 points, Nick Smith 21, Jordan Walsh 12 and Makhi Mitchell had 10 and 6 rebounds.
With 7:27 to play in the fist half, the Razorbacks trailed 30-23 and the Sooners were hotter than an Arizona Labor Day, hitting 13 of their first 17 shots.
In the TV timeout, Musselman got his players' attention and Oklahoma finished the first half 5 of 12 and trailing 43-40. In the final 27:27, Arkansas outscored OU 65-48 for a 88-78 win.
It is a quality win that could weigh heavily in the team's NET ranking.
More from WholeHogSports: Recapping Arkansas' win over Oklahoma in Tulsa
Might as well get this out there: If Smith had been healthy in Hawaii, there would have been no 90-87 loss to Creighton, and the Razorbacks would be undefeated.
The Blue Jays haven’t won since that Nov. 22 game in Maui and the Razorbacks have gotten Smith back from an injury and appear to be getting better with each game, although they probably haven only scratched the surface as far as potential.
In his first three seasons, the teams Musselman put on the floor early in the season were not the same teams he had at the finish. It might have been some of the same players, but he molds them into better players and a team.
On Saturday, when Walsh made a steal and a dunk with 14:36 to play, they could have the put the bows on that one. It was wrapped up.
That completed a run of eight made shots for the Razorbacks.
Their plan was obvious: They laid off the threes, which is not a strength, and went to work in the paint. Of Arkansas’ 88 points, 58 were in the hard work zone.
Evidenced by the scoring, it was a team effort, which was highlighted by 19 assists. That’s unselfish basketball, and after Musselman turned up the heat, the defense took care of business.
They forced 17 turnovers and blocked five shots.
At times, OU was throwing something at the rim rather than turning it over as Arkansas’ heat made them change their shots more times than not.
More from WholeHogSports: Scottie Bordelon's takeaways from the Razorbacks' win over Sooners
Give the Sooners credit. They never gave up, not even after early in the second half when Porter Moser had to take back-to-back timeouts because they couldn’t inbound the ball.
When they finally did, they turned it over. It was vastly different than last season when the two teams met and OU jumped in front 13-0 and roared to a 88-66 win.
Even though the Sooners led by as many as nine in the early going, Musselman and his newbies never panicked, chipping at the lead with high-percentage shots and defense.
The Razorbacks grabbed a lead with 1:43 to play in the first half on an old-fashioned three-point play by Council. It was a lead they refused to lose and slowly pulled away in the second half, when they made those eight consecutive shots.
From that point on, the gutsy-and-game Sooners couldn’t get closer than nine and trailed by as much as 16. Arkansas had so many different players scoring, OU couldn’t stop them.
The Razorbacks are now off until Saturday, when they play Bradley at Simmons Bank Arena in North Little Rock. Then they host UNC-Asheville in Bud Walton Arena before a week off for Christmas.
On Dec. 28 in Baton Rouge, they open conference play. And they will be ready.
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