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.
Tigers have different tales
LSU forward Darius Days (4) drives for the basket between Florida forward Colin Castleton, left, and Florida forward Anthony Duruji during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Youngblood)
FAYETTEVILLE — On Tigers this week the Razorbacks continue trying to change their stripes.
Their own stripes.
Against the Missouri Tigers on Wednesday night at Walton Arena, Arkansas’ reeling Razorbacks, off a 0-3 SEC start, posted an unfathomably effective 49-15 first half en route to romping, 87-43.
Today at 1 p.m. on ESPN2 in Baton Rouge, La., the Razorbacks (11-5, 1-3 SEC) try to take Wednesday’s momentum vs. the LSU Tigers.
Tales of these Tigers spin differently.
Missouri’s Tigers have been embarrassed much of their so-far 7-8 season. But last Saturday in Columbia, Mo., they merited national attention upsetting then-No. 15 Alabama.
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The Tide feather in Mizzou’s cap just further captured Arkansas’ angry eyes. Their season skidding toward the brink and Coach Eric Musselman in shoulder pain for what Thursday required surgery, the Razorbacks obviously felt compelled to prepare for Mizzou’s Tigers like they were NBA champs.
Kobe Brown, the Mizzou forward scoring 30 points on Alabama, scored but six on Arkansas.
Reserve forwards Trey Wade and Kamani Johnson started and excelled in a lineup with four forwards and senior guard JD Notae, and customary starting guard Devo Davis excelling off the bench.
Even with pain persisting and surgery forthcoming, Musselman likely slept better Wednesday night than since tearing his rotator cuff during a December collision in practice.
“I think tonight we played as hard as any college team could play for 40 minutes,” Musselman said postgame. “Nobody can play harder than what we did tonight for 40 minutes.”
Still Alabama aloft, Mizzou’s Tigers never knew what hit them in Arkansas’ 26-3 start.
It’s a different tale on the Tigers besetting Arkansas today in Baton Rouge. Coach Will Wade’s LSU Tigers (15-1, 3-1) rank 12th in the country.
Only nationally No. 4 Auburn at home has beaten LSU, which otherwise in the SEC beat Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida.
And like Mizzou’s stunner over Alabama capturing Arkansas’ attention, Arkansas’ 87-43 score over Mizzou no doubt has been underscored by Wade.
It’s quite a task that assistant coach Keith Smart takes head coaching Arkansas today with Musselman recuperating in Fayetteville.
Though head coaching his first college game, Smart should be more than up to it. The former Indiana Hoosiers star coached pro ball for 22 years. He NBA head coached Cleveland, Golden State and Sacramento.
Having both played for Musselman as a pro and assisting as a coach when Musselman head coached Golden State, Smart said he knows what Musselman expects and has his respect to adjust plans as necessary.
“I shared with the team that I’m going to do everything I can to stay close to the vest with how we’ve been doing things,” Smart said. “But I’ve got to coach in my style and my personality. I talked with Coach about that and he said, ‘Just do what you need to do and keep preparing this team to get ready to play a game.”
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