In just a nine-game sample, the Arkansas Razorbacks have had some incredible ups so far this season and some depressive lows.
The Hogs’ 97-83 victory over the Furman Paladins had a bit of both. The victory moved the Razorbacks to 6-3 on the season in what was a depressurized contest for fans.
Like the sharp-shooting Western anti-hero Paladin, which Richard Boone played on TV from 1957-63 in “Have Gun — Will Travel,” Furman came gunning for the Hogs, canning 3-pointers left and right in the first half. Furman hit 8 of 18 treys for 44.4% shooting behind the 3-point line for the first half.
Furman’s deft shooting kept the game more interesting than it should have been with the Hogs on top just 40-35 at the half, but the Paladin’s shooting waned as Arkansas’ depth asserted itself in the second half. Furman cooled to 4 of 14 treys in the second half for 12 of 32 (37.5%) for the game.
Arkansas held Furman to a modest 38.4% shooting from the field for the game, which was key in the easy win.
The Razorbacks’ lead bulged to 20 points in the second half as Arkansas scorched the nets themselves, shooting an incredible 60.7% from the field for the game.
Next up for the Razorbacks
Opponent: Oklahoma (in Tulsa)
When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9
Where: Tulsa, OK
Next 5 games
Dec. 16 – Lipscomb in Little Rock, 5 p.m. (SEC+)
Dec. 21 – Abilene Christian, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)
Dec. 30 – UNC Wilmington, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)
Jan. 6 – Auburn, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
Jan. 10 – at Georgia, 8 p.m. (ESPN2/U)
The Razorbacks played enough defense to allow their talent and depth to overwhelm Furman, but there is no doubt Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman will find plenty of corrections to make to hold his squad’s feet to the flame as they begin to prepare for Saturday’s game in the BOK Center at Tulsa against Big 12 — soon to be SEC — rival Oklahoma.
The Sooners are ranked 19th in the latest Associated Press Top 25, and would no doubt enjoy hanging a Razorback pelt among their trophies before their final season of Big 12 play commences next month.
Unfortunately, the Razorbacks might not be at their best Saturday when they travel to Tulsa. According to Musselman, Razorback forward Trevon Brazile suffered a sprained ankle when he came down awkwardly while scoring a basket in the second half.
Musselman used an oxymoron to describe the injury, calling it a “pretty good sprain,” and saying the ankle was already swollen after the game.
Sprains can be tricky. Some are minor, what one might refer to as a twisted ankle. Others are worse. A high-ankle sprain might include a crack or a break of the small lower leg bone, the fibula. That often requires a minor surgery with a screw placed in the bone.
If the injury is a common sprain, Brazile might not be 100% Saturday, but with the treatment he will gain between now and then, he probably will be able to play some if not all of his regular minutes against OU.
However, if it was a high ankle sprain, he could be on the shelf for a couple of weeks.
Brazile earned SEC Player of the Week honors for his double-double performance in the Razorbacks’ 80-75 victory over the then No. 7 Duke Blue Devils last Wednesday. Brazile, who scored 13 points and collected 4 rebounds before his injury against Furman, scored 19 points and had 11 rebounds against the Blue Devils.
Brazile, who missed most of last season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, unfortunately, knows the rehab drill better than most.
His standout play of the night was a monster two-hand cram with four minutes left in the first half. Brazile first had to gather an alley-oop pass from Jeremiah Davenport before throwing the dunk down with power. He also hit two of his three 3-point attempts in the game.
Khalif Battle once again came off the bench to lead the Razorbacks in scoring with 25 points against Furman. The guard from Hillside, N.J. also went over 1,000 points in his college career which has seen him suit up for Temple, Butler, and the Razorbacks.
As impressive as Battle and Brazile were, it might have been senior forward Chandler Lawson who stole the show with a 19-point outburst. The Memphis transfer has impressed Hog fans with his defensive prowess already with his work against Duke last week and against Purdue’s Zach Edey in an exhibition game, but he showed he can score when needed against Furman with his 19-point season high.
Davonte “Devo” Davis is proving to be a fixer for the Hogs in his senior season. He’s playing within himself and doing whatever needs to be done for the Razorbacks to post a victory. He flirted with a triple double against Furman grabbing 10 rebounds, dishing 8 assists, and scoring 7 points. He also had the highest plus/minus score on the team of 15.
Freshman Layden Blocker continued to prove his worth for the Hogs with 9 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots. He also threw down a dunk in traffic that brought Hog fans to their feet.
Overall the Furman victory was a solid one that saw most of the Razorbacks falling into roles and performing them very well.
Even Tramon Mark played well coming off his scary injury two weeks ago in the Battle 4 Atlantis Invitational loss to North Carolina, in which he landed awkwardly on his hip and back area. After missing the Duke victory, he played 26 minutes off the bench, scoring 7 points, grabbing 3 rebounds, making 2 steals, and passing out 2 assists.
We may find out Thursday if Brazile will be able to play against Oklahoma on Saturday. He, no doubt, will be needed if he can possibly play in the Razorbacks’ final marquee game before entering SEC play on Jan. 6 against Auburn.
The Razorback do play Lipscomb in Little Rock on Dec. 16, Abilene Christian on Dec. 21, and UNC Wilmington on Dec. 30, prior to the start of SEC play, but none of those games possess the name appeal of an Oklahoma.