The Arkansas men’s basketball team beat the North Texas Mean Green 68-60 Saturday in its second and final exhibition game of the year.
Sophomore forward Jaylin Williams was sidelined with back spasms, forcing the Razorbacks to start the game with five guards. The small lineup allowed Arkansas to use its athleticism to its advantage. The five guards flew around the defensive end and forced multiple turnovers and deflections.
Arkansas looked much better in the half court on offense than it did in its first exhibition matchup. The Hogs took it to the rim with purpose Saturday and found themselves in the bonus with 13:46 remaining in the first half. Their ability to finish at the rim, complemented by shooting 58% from 3-point range allowed them to score 42 in the first period, including an 18-0 run.
Graduate transfer guard Chris Lykes and junior forward Connor Vanover provided a spark and a different look off the bench. Lykes brought a suddenness and speed that was a change of pace from the athleticism and power of the starting lineup.
Vanover was a little different, looking out of place in the movement of the Razorback offense. The ball seemed to stick in his hands at times, but the 7-foot-3-inch giant’s ability to shoot and protect the rim is a valuable skill set he has not used to its fullest yet.
Senior guard JD Notae had the hot hand in the first half and led the Razorbacks in scoring. Notae scored a team-high 18 points, shooting 4-6 from deep.
Graduate senior Stanley Umude played much better in the second exhibition game than the first. At 6-feet-6-inches, Umude was the tallest player in the starting lineup for Arkansas, and was the main rim protector when the Razorbacks went small. His ability to play big on defense and get to the basket with explosiveness on offense is one of the biggest factors that allowed Arkansas to go small for large portions of the game, and there was a noticeable shift when Umude fouled out with four minutes to go in the game.
“We were happy for Stanley,” Notae said postgame. “He’s been practicing those turnarounds all summer and finally hit some, so we’re happy for him.”
In the second half, the Hogs went cold and North Texas went on a 9-0 run that put the game within five points. Lykes swiped a steal that led to a layup, then hit a jump shot off the dribble on the next time down to end the Mean Green run. A second scoring drought for Arkansas led to a one-possession game, as North Texas brought the deficit to 56-53 with four minutes to go in the game.
The Razorbacks responded by scoring a tough layup and forcing a travel on the other end. The next offensive possession looked to be an empty one until sophomore guard Davonte Davis saved the ball from going out of bounds with a no-look pass to graduate senior Trey Wade for a layup and-1 that sent the crowd in Bud Walton Arena into a frenzy and pushed the lead to seven.
With a minute remaining, the Razorbacks broke the Mean Green’s press and a Davis alley-oop pass to graduate transfer Au’Diese Toney all but ended the game.
Notae led the Razorbacks in scoring with 21 points and shot 5-14 from the field. Umude led the way for Arkansas with five rebounds, and sophomore guard Khalen Robinson led the Hogs in assists with four.
Arkansas shot 42% from the field, 39% from three and 73% from the foul line Saturday, much better than in its first exhibition game.
The Hogs continued to struggle in rebounding and assists. Arkansas’ 28 rebounds could be a product of its small lineup, but just 10 assists compared to 14 turnovers is cause for concern.
“From an assist standpoint, the ball is not moving quite like I would like it to,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said in the postgame press conference. “It was an atrocious job on the defensive glass. We need to get tougher.”
Arkansas will play its season opener against Mercer at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at Bud Walton Arena.