The Razorback men’s basketball team remains undefeated after a come-from-behind victory against Oral Roberts in Fayetteville on Sunday afternoon. Arkansas trailed the Golden Eagles by double digits at halftime but utilized a 57-point second half to overcome the deficit and win 87-76.
Senior forward Justin Smith led the Hogs with 22 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. He finished the game shooting 9-20 from the field after making six of eight shots in the second half.
“I think in the first half I started rushing,” Smith said after the game. “I think I responded well in the second half just taking my time and focusing on the finish.”
Head coach Eric Musselman and junior guard Desi Sills both singled out Smith in their postgame press conferences.
“It’s really hard to take him off the floor because he can guard 1-5 (positions),” Musselman said. “Because of his defensive ability we really tend to rely on him.”
Sills was candid in his assessment of Smith’s contribution to the team.
“He did a hell of a job,” Sills said. “That’s what we need Justin to do each and every night because when he’s playing his game the way he’s supposed to play we’re going to be tough to beat.”
Arkansas trailed Oral Roberts 40-30 going into halftime. It was the first time all year that the Hogs had been behind at the intermission.
In the first half, the typically sharpshooting Razorbacks converted just two of 16 shots from beyond the arc and turned the ball over nine times. The Hogs finished the competition shooting a season-low 16.7% from deep.
Musselman was visibly frustrated with his team’s shot selection and carelessness with the ball.
“I thought it was the first time all year where we had some selfishness creep in from an offensive standpoint,” Musselman said. “I thought guys came into the game thinking, ‘score,’ instead of thinking, ‘Arkansas,’...hopefully it does not happen again.”
Musselman kept his halftime message to the players simple, he said.
“If you take ill-advised shots you’re coming out and If you don’t defend you’re coming out and if you don’t go to the offensive and defensive boards you’re coming out,” Musselman said he told his team to spark the comeback.
Sills notched 16 points and a career-high 10 rebounds in his first collegiate double-double.
“Anytime you can get your off-guard down there rebounding the basketball like Desi did tonight...I thought he was really vital to us as well,” Musselman said.
Smith expressed gratitude for Sills’ work ethic and willingness to go up against bigger guys and grab rebounds.
“It’s always easier for forwards when the guards come in and rebound,” Smith said. “He kind of kept us in the game early on just making hustle plays.”
Despite the uncharacteristically poor shooting, the Razorbacks managed to improve their record to 7-0 and the Head Hog refused to dwell on the team’s bad night during the holiday season.
“You know what, we’re going to go see an incredible Christmas light show with my family and I’m pumped up about that,” Musselman said. “I don’t want to ruin it by (talking about) our first-half performance.”
Arkansas will look to extend its unbeaten streak to eight games against Abilene Christian on Tuesday, Dec. 22 at 4 p.m in Bud Walton Arena. The game will be televised on SEC Network.