Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Razorback Report: Musselman's 'T' counts this time
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman, left, is held back after being called for a technical foul against Baylor in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Waco, Texas. (Chris Jones/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)
WACO, Texas — It took 21 games, but University of Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman finally picked up his first technical foul of the season.
It happened with 5:44 left in the first half of No. 17 Baylor’s 67-64 victory over the Razorbacks on Saturday at the Ferrell Center.
Bears freshman guard Keyonte George drove the lane and scored as he knocked down Arkansas center Makhel Mitchell.
A replay showed Mitchell in good position to draw a charge, and when he was called for blocking, Musselman argued with officials and Kipp Kissinger hit him with a technical.
Baylor guard LJ Cryer hit both technical free throws and George completed his three-point play with a free throw to put the Bears ahead 25-20.
“I don’t want to comment on the refs because it’s not worth it,” Musselman said.
The Razorbacks played inspired after the technical and went on a 13-2 run the rest of the half to take a 33-27 lead.
Arkansas’ bench was called for a technical foul in the fifth game this season when Creighton beat the Razorbacks 90-87 in the Maui Invitational, but Musselman has insisted the technical wasn’t called on him. He added he wasn’t sure who drew the technical with 13:57 left in the Creighton game.
“It was someone on our bench. I don’t know if it was identified in the heat of the moment of who it was,” Musselman said earlier this season. “It wasn’t me, but I don’t know if it was an assistant coach or a player. They kind of pointed in a direction and we just tried to refocus on the game at that point.”
When Arkansas beat Rogers (Okla.) State 84-49 in an exhibition game on Oct. 24, Musselman drew a technical foul with 7:33 left in the first half with the Razorbacks leading 26-11 when he went onto the court, arguing a charging call on Mitchell that negated a basket.
“I’m in midseason form,” Musselman said at the time.
Saturday’s game marked the first technical foul called on Musselman since the regular-season finale at Tennessee last year, according to HogStats.com, when the Volunteers beat the Razorbacks 78-74 on March 5, 2022.
Freshman guard Keyonte George led Baylor with 24 points, including seven consecutive to put the Bears ahead 62-55. He capped the scoring spurt with a three-pointer.
“Just staying locked in, trusting myself, trusting my work,” George said. “The last two minutes, that’s when it comes in being in shape, playing when you’re tired. And being locked in.
“That’s why I think I was able to make those shots down the stretch.”
George finished 8 of 20 from the field, including 2 of 5 on three-pointers, and hit 6 of 6 free throws.
“Oh, he’s phenomenal,” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said when asked about George’s impact. “He just rose up [on jumpers], knocked down his foul shots.
“Just has an incredible-looking shot. Twenty-four points in 32 minutes, I mean, he’s a really, really, really special player — really special player.”
George, from Lewisville, Texas, was matched up for much of the game against his close friend, Arkansas freshman guard Anthony Black, who is from Coppell, Texas. The cities are suburbs of Dallas 11 miles apart.
“I’ve been knowing AB since sixth or seventh grade, playing AAU against each other. We played against each other in high school for two years, before I went to IMG [Academy in Florida],” George said. “A lot of people don’t know that we’re best friends.
“I go over to his house, he goes over to my house, we stay at each other’s house. So it was a real emotional game for both of us.
“We talked a lot leading up to this game and we had a lot of fun going at each other. But at the end of the day, we’re not going to take anything personal that we say to each other in between the lines.
“Outside of basketball, outside the lines, we’re brothers. We love each other. I love his family and he loves my family.”
25 for Council
Arkansas junior guard Ricky Council led the Razorbacks with 25 points Saturday when he hit 10 of 17 shots, including 2 of 4 three-pointers, and 3 of 3 free throws in 39 minutes.
“I thought he did a great job of finding seams in the zone, especially in the second half,” Razorbacks Coach Eric Musselman said. “We kind of moved him around in different areas.
“I think our zone offense is drastically improved.”
It was Council’s fourth game this season with 25 or more points. He had 27 points against Troy, 26 against Oklahoma and 25 against Missouri.
Arkansas senior center Makhel Mitchell played 23 minutes off the bench after missing the previous game against LSU on Tuesday night because of a right ankle injury he suffered last Saturday against Ole Miss.
Mitchell had 4 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 2 assists.
“Makhel Mitchell was supposed to be out over a week and a half to 2 1/2 weeks,” Coach Eric Musselman said. “He comes back and misses one game and suits up and gives us a great minutes on a bad ankle.”
In the Challenge
Baylor improved to 8-2 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, including 5-0 at home.
Arkansas is 4-5 in Challenge games with all the victories at home over Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma State, and all of the losses on the road at Iowa State, Oklahoma State (twice), Texas Tech and Baylor.
Saturday’s games were the last of the 10-year SEC/Big 12 Challenge because starting next season the SEC will have a Challenge Series against the ACC.
Arkansas is 96-49 all-time against Baylor, a former Southwest Conference rival, including 36-31 in Waco.
Saturday marked the Razorbacks’ first game at Baylor since Jan. 26, 1991, when Arkansas won 73-68.
Saturday’s announced crowd of 10,627 was the second largest in the 34-year history of the Farrell Center.
It fell one person short of the all-time record of 10,628 last season when Baylor beat Kansas 80-70.
Arkansas fans helped fill up the Ferrell Center as there appeared to be about 1,000.
“I know that our guys could feel the Razorback people that were here,” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said. “We travel well, and today was another showing by our fans.”
White on the road
Arkansas wore its white home uniforms on the road for the second time this season. The Razorbacks also wore white at Vanderbilt two weeks ago when the Commodores won 97-84.
Baylor wore dark green uniforms.
The Razorbacks started the same lineup of Anthony Black, Davonte Davis, Ricky Council, Jordan Walsh and Makhi Mitchell in consecutive games for the first time in five games.
It was the 11th time Arkansas has started that lineup.
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