ARK MBB 11/22/21

Arkansas center Connor Vanover celebrates a basket as he runs back to play defense during the Hogs’ 72-64 win over Kansas State on Monday.

The No. 13 Arkansas men’s basketball team took down the Kansas State Wildcats 72-64 Monday night in the first round of the Hall of Fame Classic Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Razorbacks led for nearly the entire contest, though the game was never firmly in hand for the Hogs, especially in the second half.  Arkansas got off to a great start in the first half and held an 18-point lead with 2:36 left.

Junior center Connor Vanover and senior Stanley Umude led the Razorbacks’ offensive charge in the first half. Vanover was 8-8 from the free throw line and Umude had six points in the period, helping the Hogs take a 42-24 lead into halftime.

“I thought that first half was about as good of a 20 minutes as we have played since I’ve been here,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said in the postgame press conference. “We moved the ball really, really well.”

The Wildcats played with much more intensity in the second half. They completely abandoned offensive rebounding opportunities in favor of getting all five back on defense, taking away Arkansas’ ability to beat them in transition. The adjustment worked and the Razorbacks looked relatively stagnant when forced into a half-court offense.

Kansas State managed to cut into the deficit and went on a seven-point run to make it a 53-43 game with 10:32 remaining. Arkansas was able to hold on to a 10-point lead up until the 1:54 mark when the Wildcats drained two free throws to bring the score to 62-54. Senior guard Chris Lykes then took the game into his hands, hitting two free throws with 1:47 remaining to bring the Hog lead back to 10.

The Wildcats went down again and made a layup-and-1 to bring the deficit to seven, and Lykes once again hit a pair of free throws to create a nine-point Razorback lead. The Wildcats responded with a 3-pointer to come within six. Lykes continued to hit his free throws and iced the game for the Hogs.

“That’s just my job as a (point guard),” Lykes said. “Coach trusts us to have the ball in those situations. Knocking down those free throws is just what is expected of me as a point guard.”

Senior guard JD Notae, the Razorbacks’ leading scorer this season, struggled to find his stroke and was 4-17 from the field, finishing with 11 points. Vanover had some quality minutes for the Hogs, made 14 points and finished 8-9 from the foul line. Lykes also made 14, and was a perfect 10-10 from the line.

A concern for Arkansas coming into the matchup Monday was 3-point defense, and the Razorbacks improved greatly in that area over previous games. The Wildcats were only 3-22 from 3-point range, and began 0-13 from beyond the arc.

Arkansas will take on Cincinnati in the championship of the Hall of Fame Classic at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in Kansas City. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

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