Rogers State head coach Justin Barkley has heard a lot of preseason buzz about No. 10 Arkansas.
Minutes after the Razorbacks downed the Division II Hillcats 83-49 in a scrimmage Monday night Bud Walton Arena, Barklely stated that he believes all the hype is warranted.
“In my 13 years as a head coach, we have played quite a few Division I schools and quite a few Power 5 schools,” Barkley said, “but I have never seen length and athleticism like this. Arkansas fans are in for a very exciting year.
“I mean they have got depth, he (Razorback head coach Eric Musselman) can hold guys accountable if guys aren’t right. And when you do that, you can turn upon the heat as a coach.
“…People have been talking about a Final Four team and I have seen some good ones, but there is definitely a buzz in here and I would be really excited if I was a Hog fan.”
Freshman Joseph Pinion led Arkansas with 15 points off the bench while Trevon Brazille added 11 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks, Nick Smith 9 points, Jordan Walsh and Rickey Council 8 points, Jalen Graham 7 and Anthony Black 6 points and 5 assists.
The Razorbacks, who travel to scrimmage Texas Saturday at 3 p.m., started Smith (6-5), Walsh (6-7), Black (6-8), Graham (6-9) and Brazille (6-9).
“I have never seen that and there is probably not five teams in America with that type of length,” Barkley said. “I was talking to some of their assistants and they said after last year’s (Elite Eight loss) with Duke and they said they wanted to go out and get length and get more guys with that type of size. They have definitely done that.
“Brazille, Graham, the two twins (6-10 Makhi and Makhel Mitchell) from Rhode Island and then you’ve got your 6-8 point guard and a 6-5 guard in Nick Smith and then you have Walsh. I mean my God, they just come at you in waves. There is no break.”
The 6-6 Pinion was 4 of 6 from 3-point range on a night when the Razorbacks shot 28 of 47 (59.6 percent) from the field, 7 of 18 (38.9 percent) from 3-point range and 20 of 37 (54. 1 percent) from the free throw line.
“You know what, he is going to be a huge, huge boost for them because of their ability to get to the paint with their playmaking and with Black’s ability to pass the basketball and Nick Smith is going to attract all kind of attention,”Barkley said. “If he can stretch the floo,r, it will open up even more lanes for those guys and they will be even harder to guard.”
Barkley was happy with the opportunity to play Arkansas.
“This will help us,” Barkley said. “We were able to get down in the lane a few times and I thought we got a lot of paint touches. We are not going to see that type of athleticism go above the rim like they did. So I saw a lot of bright spots.”
Arkansas had 8 dunks and was 11 of 13 on lay up attempts.
“I thought we did a good job plugging up gaps,” Barkley said. “We wanted to really see if they could try and make shots. We knew they were high flying athletes that could really drive it and play above the rim. Our job was to try and protect the paint and much as possible.
“But with their ability to pass over the top, get to the offensive glass and do some things, they really broke us late in the second half. The last 12 minutes fatigue set in, their movement was great and I thought we just kind of fell apart.
“I though there was some good moments for us. We have just got to build on moments and just try to string it out a little bit.”
Rogers State was 16 of 53 (30.2 percent) on its field goal attempts, 3 of 12 from 3-point range and 14 of 17 from the charity stripe.
Sherwyn Devonish Prince, Jr., had 13 points to lead the Hillcats while Gerren Jackson added 11.
“I thought that we didn’t move the ball as well, but that had to do with their length,” Barkley said. “It bothered us. That is something that we can’t simulate. They got up in some passing lanes and obviously their ability to run in transition is really hard to defend.”
Arkansas led 38-20 at half and took its largest lead of the game by going up 77-41 with 4:37 left.
“I was pleased with our effort,” Barkley said. “What I didn’t like was our concentration. I thought when we had some good things go well for us that we didn’t capitalize on it and try to build on it.
“I thought we were lax and got a little bit complacent when we went to our bench. We have got to keep pushing open the gas pedal, but for us it was a great learning experience even if it went well or it didn’t go well.
Rogers State is picked 10th in the 14-member Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association, a league that has been dominated by defending Division II national champion Northwest Missouri.
It is the Hillcats first year as a full member of the MIAA after being an associate member since 2019.
“This was the first scrimmage, the first exhibition, the first anything that we’ve had with a brand new group. So for us, it is going to be a great learning experience and we will be better for it going forward.”
Photo by John D. James