By Kevin McPherson
FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks opened their second exhibition season with their annual Red-White intra-squad scrimmage on Sunday in front of an excited crowd of 5,147 fans inside venerable Barnhill Arena, and it was the Red team that defeated the White team, 64-59, as senior transfer forward Jalen Graham exploded for 25 points for the winners to lead all scorers.
Graham shot 10-of-11 from the field on a variety of close-range shots, but he also drained his only 3-point attempt. He also chipped in 2 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist, and 1 steal in 24 minutes.
Freshman guard Nick Smith, Jr., led the White team with 23 points (7-of-20 field goals, but he was 3-of-8 from 3 for 37.5% and 6-of-8 from the free throw line for 75%) to go with 3 assists and only 1 turnover in 32 minutes.
“I thought the environment was great,” fourth-year head coach Eric Musselman said. “I thought it was a great crowd. With the students being out on break we didn’t really know what type of crowd we would have. We walked in and we were all really surprised in a good way.”
Behind Graham’s volume scoring and blistering-hot shooting efficiency, the Red team built double-digit leads that eventually swelled to a 17-point advantage early in the fourth quarter. But Smith got hot from 3, hitting a couple late in the period during a White team 11-0 run that was the catalyst in pulling the squad within 4 points, 61-57, with under a minute to play.
The Red team also got contributions from freshman wing Joseph Pinion (12 points on 5-of-8 field goal shooting, including 2-of-5 from 3); junior transfer wing Ricky Council IV (10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal); freshman guard Anthony Black (4 points, game-high-matching 9 rebounds, game-high 9 assists, game-high 3 blocks, 1 steal, and 3 turnovers in 32 minutes); senior transfer forward / center Makhi Mitchell (6 points on 3-of-4 field goals to go with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks); and freshman combo forward Jordan Walsh (4 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and only 1 turnover).
The White team got contributions from sophomore forward Trevon Brazile (13 points on 6-of-12 field goals, including 1-of-4 from 3, to go with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 2 turnovers in 31 minutes); senior forward / center Kamani Johnson (8 points, game-high-matching 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, and 2 turnovers in 27 minutes); senior transfer forward / center Makhel Mitchell (8 points on 4-of-4 close-range field goal shooting to go with 5 rebounds and a team-high 4 assists); and freshmen Derrian Ford and Barry Dunning, Jr., who each scored 4 points and each grabbed 3 rebounds.
Junior guard Devo Davis did not dress out but was with the team (precautionary, non-serious knee discomfort).
In keeping with poor three-point shooting themes in Europe as well as practices, the two teams combined for 8-of-32 from distance for 25.0%. The teams committed 9 turnovers each, but in a 32-minute game (not 40 like will be the case from here on out) that’s a high volume of turnovers.
Similar to how things played out in the Euro four-win exhibition tour in August, the Hogs’ bright spots were finishing drives or scoring in other ways from relatively close range.
“You do these things to try to evaluate,” Musselman said. “Get a look at guys at different positions. Guys getting the opportunity to compete against each other. This is the only day they will get in front of the public to compete against each other. Everything else will obviously be against another opponent.”
Next up for the Hoop Hogs are two exhibition games — against Division II Rogers State (home matchup on Monday, Oct. 24) followed by a matchup against old Southwest Conference rival / soon-to-be-SEC-foe Texas (road tilt on Saturday, Oct. 29).
Since the arrival of Musselman, both of the previous two Red/White intrasquad scrimmages (no game in 2020-21 due to the covid-19 pandemic) were played to cozy but hearty crowds — 5,000 or so fans attended in each of ’19-20 and ’21-22.
Unlike last year when the game was live-streamed on ESPN-Plus / SEC Network-Plus, there was no live-stream for the event this season.
Former Hogs Isaiah Joe, Jaylin Williams, Connor Vanover, JD Notae, Stanley Umude, and Au’Diese Toney all had strong performances in recent Red/White games, which in most of those cases foreshadowed big things to come in the regular season in terms of production and roles.
The event presented an opportunity for the coaching staff bring in multiple unofficial visitors on Sunday, including priority targets in 2023 5-star Ron Holland (6-8 combo forward, Duncanville, Texas) and 2025 4-star Terrion Burgess (6-9 wing, Benton, Arkansas Hawks).
Photos by Hogville’s John James …