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.
'He's an elite shooter': Pinion provided pop Hogs needed
Missouri guard Sean East II (55) and Arkansas guard Joseph Pinion (5) fight for control of the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas freshman Joseph Pinion is responsible for three of the loudest pops from the Bud Walton Arena crowds this season.
Each of them came after he knocked down a three-pointer Wednesday during the 13th-ranked Razorbacks’ 74-68 victory over No. 20 Missouri. His perimeter shot making was vital in Arkansas overcoming a 17-point first-half deficit and moving to 12-2 overall and 1-1 in SEC play.
A former standout at Morrilton High School, Pinion finished with a season-high 13 points on 3 of 6 beyond the arc. Arkansas coach Eric Musselman credited the guard for changing the Razorbacks’ look against the Tigers’ zone defense.
“We felt that we were going to get zoned tonight, so I felt that if in fact the first unit struggled, he was going to be an option we were going to have to look at,” Musselman said. “I thought he did a phenomenal job. He shoots the ball with confidence every day. When you watch your team spot shoot, he's an elite shooter.
More from WholeHogSports: Our coverage of Arkansas' 74-68 win over Missouri on Wednesday
“The way (Missouri’s) zone is where they have so many guys above the foul line, that deep corner is a sweet spot for somebody.”
That somebody was Pinion, who made two of his three triples in the corners. The other, which put Arkansas ahead 46-42 in the second half, came from the right wing with a hand in his face.
According to CBB Analytics, Pinion is 5 of 10 from three-point range in the corners this season and 1 of 5 from the wings and top of the key. He said the Razorbacks’ staff emphasizes him getting to the corners during transition drills in practices.
Pinion, who earned a second-half start in place of Wichita State transfer Ricky Council, impressed Wednesday not only with his shot readiness but in properly filling lanes in the open floor and understanding spacing.
“I thought he ran really hard,” Musselman said. “It's not just getting to the corner, but we call it the extreme corner. And then you've got to have discipline to stay there if you're not getting the ball, and that's why even when Joseph did not score tonight, I thought he flattened things out for us from a spacing standpoint.
“If you don't have good spacing against Missouri, you're not going to give yourself a chance to win.”
Pinion’s offensive jolt and solid defensive play – a second-half steal resulted in a Council dunk – led him to seeing the floor for a season-high 27 minutes. His previous high was 19 during Arkansas’ Dec. 21 win over North Carolina-Asheville, which he added 10 points and 3 assists against.
“Whenever I hit my first three, I felt like I might have to play a little bit tonight,” Pinion said. “Our shots weren’t falling in the first half, but I’m glad that I was able to hit some threes and help us.”
Former Arkansas sharpshooter Pat Bradley, the program’s leader in career threes made, was on the SEC Network broadcast of Wednesday’s game. He was complimentary of Pinon’s play
“The threat of having a shooter on the floor is important for this Arkansas offense — just the threat of having that guy for the Missouri defense to go, ‘Where is he?’” Bradley said. “And that’s going to create some opportunities.”
Pinion made the most of his in his first SEC home game.
“We’re going to need that down the stretch,” said Council, who scored a game-high 25 points. “He hit some really big threes. It got too loud and I had to cover my ears. It was good.”
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