Exhibition or not, the Arkansas men’s basketball team made a statement on Saturday.
The 14th ranked Hogs defeated No. 3 Purdue 81-77 in a charity clash that, while not official, might very well set the tone for the season ahead.
Tramon Mark hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 69-69. Chandler Lawson sealed the victory with two free throws with six seconds left to give the Razorbacks a five-point lead.
“That game was incredible for anyone that got to witness it,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “It was almost as good as any game I’ve participated in.”
Musselman said the crowd was in mid-season form, which gave all of his new players a taste of what it will be like to play inside Bud Walton Arena this season.
Musselman’s team this year returns five players in Davonte “Devo” Davis, Makhi Mitchell, Jalen Graham, Joseph Pinion, and Trevon Brazile. Newcomers include Mark, plus freshmen Baye Fall and Layden Blocker; graduate transfers El Ellis, Jeremiah Davenport, Khalif Battle, Denijay Harris, and Chandler Lawson; and walk-ons Cade Arbogast and Lawson Blake.
Mark, in his first season with Arkansas after transferring from Houston, finished in double figures with 15 points along with Trevon Brazile (15), El Ellis (12), Khalif Battle (12) and Chandler Lawson (10). Mark also led the team in rebounds with six.
Purdue’s Zach Edey, reigning National Player of the Year, battled foul trouble but finished the game with 15 points, made 7-of-8 free throws, and recorded a game-high nine rebounds.
The game raised money to help clean-up efforts for a March tornado in central Arkansas. It wasn’t a part of the season ticket holder package, but the top-15 showdown sold out Bud Walton Arena with an announced crowd of 19,200 people.
“This was ten-fold compared to a regular exhibition game,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter. “This was big time.”
“20,000 people before Halloween?” he said. “I don’t know many places that can do that.”
Arkansas officially opens the season on Monday, Nov. 6 against Alcorn State at 7 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena.