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.
SEC Tournament Report: Hogs have their way inside, looking ahead to Round 3 with Aggies
Arkansas forward/center Makhi Mitchell (15) drives past Auburn guard Presley Patterson (14), Thursday, March 9, 2023 during the first half of the 2023 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Arkansas didn’t waste its second chance — or second chances — against Auburn.
Arkansas beat the Tigers 76-73 on Thursday night in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals at Bridgestone Arena in the teams’ second matchup this season after Auburn won 72-59 at home on Jan. 7, and second-chance points were a key to the Razorbacks’ victory.
The Razorbacks had 13 offensive rebounds and outscored the Tigers 18-6 on second-chance points.
“Second-chance points are big because we know in March a lot of games are going to come down to a couple points, the last two minutes,”said Arkansas guard Anthony Black, who scored four of his 19 points on two rebound baskets. “We just got to do the small stuff like that, just make plays like that, try to get any edge we can.
“That was a big key to the game for us, offensive rebounding, second-chance points. We did a pretty solid job of that.”
The Razorbacks outrebounded the Tigers 37-19, led by 10 rebounds by 6-4 junior guard Davonte “Devo” Davis.
Davis had nine defensive rebounds, which according to Hogstats.com were the most by a Razorback guard in an SEC Tournament game, surpassing the previous high of seven by Eric Ferguson against Georgia in 2006 and by Ky Madden against Vanderbilt in 2013.
“Outrebounding a very, very good rebounding team in Auburn by 18, I thought our entire team did a great job, led by Devo’s 10 rebounds,” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said. “He was also assigned to [Auburn guard] Wendell Green, which meant he was out on the floor, guarding at the three-point line, yet he still seemed to track down nine defensive rebounds.”
Black and senior forward Makhi Mitchell each had six rebounds for the Razorbacks, and they combined for seven offensive boards. Freshman forward Jordan Walsh and senior forward Kamani Johnson each had two offensive rebounds.
“Just a collective group, if we do that, it will be hard to beat us,” Davis said of the rebounding edge. “Because we can get extra possessions, which equals extra points.”
Aggies up next
Arkansas will play No. 18 Texas A&M for the third time this season in tonight’s quarterfinals.
The teams split their regular-season meetings with the Razorbacks winning 81-70 at home and the Aggies winning 62-56 at College Station.
“It’s great,” Arkansas freshman forward Jordan Walsh said of playing the Aggies. “I love getting my get-back, I love getting revenge.
“They beat us the last game, so I’m happy to play them again on an even a bigger stage with more people watching. We want to show them we’re better than them.”
Texas A&M Coach Buzz Williams shared SEC Coach of the Year honors with Vanderbilt’s Jerry Stackhouse in a vote by the conference coaches and Williams was voted Associated Press SEC Coach of the Year by the media.
“First of all, they’re really well-coached,” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said. “We as a staff have incredible respect for Buzz Williams. He does a great job.
“They’re physical. Their up-front guys, [Hank] Coleman and [Julius] Marble, rebound the basketball. They score points in the paint.”
Musselman said the Aggies have “two star players” in sophomore guard Wade Taylor and senior guard Tyrece Radford. Both were All-SEC players.
“Those guys, I actually love watching them play,” Musselman said. “Radford has incredible toughness. In my opinion might be as versatile as any player in the league because he can guard one through five basically, for sure one through four.
“Then [senior guard Dexter] Dennis, he’s a really great complementary guy to the up front physicality of Marble-Coleman and then the backcourt of Taylor and Radford.”
Musselman said video of the Aggies was playing in the Arkansas locker room immediately after the Razorbacks beat Auburn.
“Looking at what we did wrong and fixing those small things, executing towards the end of the game,” Arkansas junior guard Davonte Davis said, referring to Texas A&M’s home victory over the Razorbacks when the Aggies rallied from a 33-24 halftime deficit. “If we take care of the ball, because they’re a great defensive team, I think it will be a tough battle because A&M is a good team. I think we’ll pull a win off.”
Arkansas’ three freshmen who were McDonald’s All-Americans — guards Anthony Black and Nick Smith had forward Jordan Walsh — combined for 44 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists against Auburn.
Black had 19 points, Smith 14 and Walsh 11.
“I think we did good,” Walsh said. “I feel like we made a big impact on the game in a positive way.
“I knew Nick and AB and me could help, I just didn’t know how much we could help. It ended up turning out to be that we helped a lot. It was great we came out with the win.”
Walsh played 21 minutes off the bench and he likely would have played more, but he suffered from back spasms dunking in the first half. He wasn’t on the bench when the second half started, but was able to play after getting some treatment.
1,000 for Council
Arkansas junior guard Ricky Council hit 1,000 career points in style.
Council, a 6-6 transfer from Wichita State, scored on one of his highly-flying dunks on a fast break with 12:43 left in the first half to give the Razorbacks a 17-10 lead and hit 1,000 points.
Council scored seven points Thursday night and now has 1,005 in 81 games, including 49 with the Shockers and 32 with the Razorbacks. He scored 485 points at Wichita State and has 520 at Arkansas.
“I got 1,000 in high school my junior year and now got 1,000 in college my junior year, so I’m real proud of myself,” Council said. “The big thing is, we got the win.”
20 for Muss again
The Razorbacks improved to 20-12 with Thursday night’s victory, giving Coach Eric Musselman at least 20 victories in all eight of his seasons as a college head coach at Arkansas and Nevada.
Musselman’s four Wolf Pack teams finished 24-14, 28-7, 29-8 and 29-5. His previous three Arkansas teams finished 20-12, 25-7 and 28-9.
Losing skid over
Arkansas closed the regular season with consecutive losses on the road at Alabama and Tennessee and to Kentucky at home.
“It was real big-time,” Razorbacks junior guard Ricky Council said of ending the losing streak by beating Auburn. “Coach [Eric Musselman] told us we had a 90% chance to make it [into the NCAA Tournament] if we lost this game, and then we’re pretty much in if we win.
“So we were really focused on winning this game. Now it’s time to move on to Texas A&M. We’re coming in with confidence.”
Arkansas improved to 38-21 all-time against Auburn, including 2-0 in SEC Tournament games.
The Razorbacks beat the Tigers 75-67 in the 2000 SEC Tournament championship game.
It’s common for assistant coaches to scout their team’s next opponent at a tournament, but Texas A&M Coach Buzz Williams sat on press row Thursday right to watch the Razorbacks and Tigers in person.
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