No. 10 Arkansas breezes past UNC Asheville 85-51

Freshman Nick Smith Jr. is out indefinitely with a right knee injury.
Arkansas forward Kamani Johnson (20) and UNC Asheville guard Trent Stephney (0) fight for a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Jalen Graham scored a season-high 16 points and No. 10 Arkansas breezed past UNC Asheville 85-51 on Wednesday night.

Graham, who hadn’t played more than 11 minutes in a game this season, logged 19 minutes and shot 8 of 10 from the field as the Razorbacks (11-1) shot 53.3% overall.

Arkansas was missing standout freshman Nick Smith Jr. The team announced before the game the 6-foot-5 guard, who’s projected as an NBA lottery pick, would be out indefinitely with a right knee injury.

“We just want him to get healthy as quick as possible and for him to be 100 percent,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “For the other guys, everybody got an opportunity tonight.”

Taijon Jones led UNC Asheville (8-5) with 14 points and Jamon Battle scored 10.

The Razorbacks led by as many as 25 points in the first half behind 63% shooting. Graham and Ricky Council, who finished with 12 points, had both reached double-digit scoring totals by halftime.

No Arkansas player logged more than 28 minutes as Musselman played half his bench for a bulk of the final 30 minutes. Freshmen Anthony Black and Joseph Pinion had 10 points apiece.

Smith’s Status

Smith missed the first six games of the season with the knee injury. He has played in five games and was fully healthy for three of those — in which he averaged 19.7 points. Musselman provided little detail about the injury and did not say when Smith might return.

“He’s out indefinitely. That’s what it is,” Musselman said. “There’s nothing else. He’s out indefinitely and he’s going to continue to rehab the best he can.”

Big Picture

Arkansas hasn’t needed Smith through most of its nonconference schedule, but his injury could be a big factor for the Razorbacks when they begin Southeastern Conference play after Christmas.

Up Next

UNC Asheville hosts Radford to start the Big South season on Dec. 29.

Arkansas is at LSU to open SEC play on Dec. 28.