Even with a sold-out crowd on hand, Bud Walton Arena did not have the same energy it usually does coming into Arkansas’s matchup against Missouri—that is, until Isaiah Joe’s name was announced during starting lineups.
The Razorbacks (17-10, 5-9) were riding a five-game losing streak entering their midseason SEC matchup with the Missouri Tigers (13-14, 5-9). The losing streak was the longest in Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman’s collegiate coaching career.
The Tigers beat Arkansas 83-79 on Feb. 8 and were looking to go a perfect 2-0 against the Hogs in 2020.
At the start of the game, it appeared Missouri was the better team. The Tigers jumped out to an early 24-11 lead and had all of the momentum. Arkansas did not score a field goal for about six minutes of game time, one of two extended scoring droughts that Arkansas suffered Saturday.
“I expected us to have scoring droughts (today), to be quite honest,” Musselman said. “We run a completely different offense when Isaiah (Joe) is out there. We’re going to be a little bit discombobulated.”
Joe made his return to the Razorback starting lineup Saturday after missing over two weeks recovering from knee surgery. Joe’s sharpshooting ability was on display against the Tigers as the sophomore went 5-10 from behind the arc and tallied 21 points on the day.
Another standout for the Hogs was sophomore guard Desi Sills, who notched four three-pointers of his own and contributed 17 points to the effort, a stark difference from Arkansas’s last game against Missouri when Sills did not score a point.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about what I did in the last game, it’s about the next game, “ Sills said, “and I feel like I stepped up big time to help this team win.”
The Arkansas basketball squad is the No. 1 ranked team in the nation for opponent’s three-point defense. Saturday was another example of that as Arkansas kept Missouri to just 19% from behind the three-point line.
On the other side of the ball, Arkansas had one of its most efficient games in shooting the three-ball, going 12-25 from three.
“Our separation (from other teams) is we lead the entire country in defending the three-ball, and we’re pretty good when we make the three-ball,” Musselman said.
Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin said he thinks around half of Arkansas’s three-point makes were because of a defensive breakdown on the Tigers’s end.
Arkansas was able to recover from its early deficit by ending the first half on a 12-2 run, and the momentum gained from that stretch carried into the second half.
The Razorbacks held the lead for the entire second half, and some clutch three-point shooting by Joe and Sills at the game’s final minutes helped solidify the victory.
Missouri’s offense was led by freshman forward Kobe Brown who recorded 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Arkansas will look to build off of the conference win Wednesday when the Tennessee Volunteers travel to Fayetteville. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., and the game will be telecast on the SEC Network.