Ricky Council IV

Arkansas junior guard Ricky Council IV drives the basket during Monday’s game against North Dakota State. The Wichita State transfer’s 22 points led the Razorbacks as they defeated the Bison 76-58.

 

 

Transfer wings Trevon Brazile and Ricky Council IV showed out for the No. 10 Arkansas men’s basketball team in its 76-58 win at home Monday over the North Dakota State Bison, carrying  the offensive load as freshman guard Nick Smith Jr. was sidelined with a knee injury.

Council, a junior from Wichita State, and Brazile, a sophomore out of Missouri, combined for 43 of the Razorbacks’ 76 points. Brazile recorded 21 points, shooting 7-14 from the field, including 3-6 from deep, and he added 12 boards to an already impressive statline.

“I think the fans will definitely see more (3-point shooting) because that's the role I've got to play this year,” Brazile said in the postgame press conference. “I have to be more effective on offense. At Missouri, I was more of a role player. So, Coach Muss and his staff told me I kind of have to step it up on the offensive end, so that's what I'm going to do this year.

Council put up 22 points on 9-14 shooting in 36 minutes.

“I thought Ricky was overly aggressive,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said. “His energy when he had the ball was phenomenal. I thought he had great bounce off the dribble. Thought he attacked the rim really well.”

The Hogs came out with a long and versatile opening lineup, featuring the twin towers of senior centers Kamani Johnson and Makhi Mitchell. Arkansas’ length and tenacity bothered the Bison immediately, as the Hogs forced five turnovers in the first five minutes. Council IV was the go-to guy offensively in the early going. He started out 3-3 from the field, including a tough fadeaway at the end of the shot clock, a circus layup and a poster-worthy reverse dunk in traffic to put the Razorbacks up 9-2 less than three minutes into the game.

“I always know Ricky is going to do some crazy stuff,” Brazile said. “You never know with that guy. I've never seen somebody reverse on somebody just driving down the lane. He's crazy.”

North Dakota State eventually found its rhythm and pushed the Hogs to a 14-14 tie with 13:19 left in the half. The Hogs could not get anything going in their half-court offense, but their tenacious defense quickly turned to offense, and that is where they found most of their scoring in the first half, with 20 points off turnovers.

Arkansas shot an underwhelming 40% from the field in the opening period but held the usually sharpshooting Bison to an even worse 31% from the field and 17% from 3-point range. The Hogs took a 34-26 lead into halftime.

The second half followed the same script as the first, until the Razorbacks scored 10 straight points in just a 1:24 span to take a 48-31 lead before the four-minute mark of the second half. Brazile was the catalyst for the run, contributing a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer and a converted layup-and-1 that sent the home fans into a frenzy and forced North Dakota State to burn a timeout.

Arkansas kept the momentum going and held a comfortable lead for the rest of the game.

McDonald’s All-American freshmen Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh had up-and-down performances. Black earned a start but could not get his offense going, as he went just 1-7 and finished with just three points. He made up for it with his effort, swiping three steals and grabbing seven rebounds in his 30 minutes.

“I don’t know if he’s going to be a 20-point scorer every night, but he’s the type of guy that affects the game without you even knowing,” Council said. “I knew he picked up some cheap fouls. That probably threw his head off a little bit. But at the end of the day, I thought he played well.”

Walsh fouled out of the game with just four points in 18 minutes, but he was a defensive stopper in his short time on the court. He registered a plus-12 rating, and the Hogs were noticeably more athletic with him on the floor. Walsh will have to be more selective with his aggressiveness in the future, but shows a lot of what Arkansas loves in long, athletic defensive stoppers.

“You just can't foul out against North Dakota State in 18 minutes, and you've got to understand when to gamble and when not to gamble,” Musselman said. “But he's a young player who will continue to figure that out.”

The Razorbacks will take on the Fordham Rams at 7 p.m. Friday in Bud Walton Arena for the next showdown. The game will stream live on the SEC Network Plus. 

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