The Razorback men’s basketball team (12-4, 4-4 in Southeastern Conference) fired on all cylinders in a 92-71 defeat of Vanderbilt (4-7, 0-5) in Nashville on Saturday afternoon.
Arkansas controlled the game from start to finish. The Hogs began the competition on a 9-0 run and held the lead for the entire duration of the contest.
Just nine days removed from questioning his team’s confidence and effort, Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman struggled to find any room for criticism following the win.
“I thought for 40 minutes we played hard,” Musselman said in the postgame press conference. “I didn’t think we had many lapses at all.”
Vanderbilt was playing without sophomore forward Dylan Disu, who averages 13.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, due to an injury. The forward’s absence created an offensive void that proved too big for sophomore guard Scotty Pippen, Jr. to fill.
Senior guard Jalen Tate scored a season-high 25 points and led the Hogs with eight assists, while his counterpart (Pippen Jr.) managed just 15 points and five assists. Musselman praised Tate’s performance on both ends of the court in the postgame press conference.
“(Jalen) Tate was assigned to (Pippen Jr.) the entire game,” Musselman said. “Not only did Jalen score the ball...then add in the fact that he held the leading scorer in the league to shoot under 50 percent.”
Freshman guard Moses Moody paced all scorers with 26 points and credited his success to Tate’s court vision in the postgame interview.
“He’s a ball distributor (and) he gets everyone involved,” Moody said. “When he’s in the lane they know he’s trying to get others involved so it’s easier for him to get buckets.”
The Razorbacks shared the ball effortlessly and doubled the Commodores’ assist total with 22. Musselman has noted in previous press conferences that Arkansas’ goal is to make at least 200 passes in every game.
“I think we had 218 passes today, so that is phenomenal,” Moody said. “I think that was the main key to why we were able to score so many points.”
The official attendance number for Saturday’s game was 83, due to Vanderbilt limiting tickets to players’ immediate family members. Musselman acknowledged the lack of a crowd in the postgame presser and expressed his desire to return to Fayetteville.
“I thought the last (home) game against Auburn that our crowd gave us a lift and not many people can say that in a COVID season, but I thought Bud Walton (Arena) got loud,” Musselman said. “I think our players fed off of that and we look forward to getting back and playing in front of our fans on Wednesday.”
As confidence continues to build within the squad, senior forward Justin Smith emphasized the importance of playing each game with a purpose.
“In the SEC, it doesn’t matter who it is...they can get you regardless of their record,” Smith said. “You have to approach each game the same way whether we’re playing the top team in the league or the bottom...anybody can beat you on any given day.”
Arkansas has now rattled off back-to-back SEC victories and will host Ole Miss (7-6, 2-4) on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on SEC Network.