Only in the first quarter Thursday was there a grounding of the Hogs in Spain as Arkansas eventually got its high-powered transition game into gear and paired it with a dominant rebounding performance for a sloppy 99-86 come-from-behind win over Catalan Elite in Barcelona in the Razorbacks’ second of four European exhibition games.
Arkansas was relentless in fast-break scoring on Tuesday in a 49-point win against host Valencia Seleccion, and though things got off to a self-inflicted-wounds slow start after the team relocated up the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Barcelona the Hoop Hogs re-discovered their full-throttle transition mojo as they ultimately overcame an early 8-point deficit on their way to a 17-point fourth-quarter lead before settling on a 13-point winning margin.
Junior guard Devo Davis and freshman guard Nick Smith, Jr. — both Jacksonville natives and both in the starting lineup on Thursday — led seven Hogs in double-figure scoring with 17 points each in a game that saw the Hogs struggle defensively to get stops in both halfcourt and transition while committing fouls in volume as Catalan seemed to live at the free throw to stay within striking distance once the Hogs pushed ahead in the second quarter. The Hogs yielded 28-of-58 overall from the field (48.3%), including 10-of-27 from 3 (37.0%), but they did force 20 turnovers.
Offensively, Arkansas was not sound protecting the ball and suffered multiple unforced giveaways (they had 23 turnovers for the game), and aside from Smith who once again knocked down three three-pointers the Hogs were not effective shooting from distance as a team (5-of-14 for 35.7%). Arkansas had 21 assists on 39-of-69 overall field goal shooting (56.5%), but again the 23 turnovers made for a sloppy performance. The Hogs’ transition work was best in the second and fourth quarters when they combined to shoot 25-of-38 from the field (65.5%).
Arkansas owned the glass, ripping down 41 boards (19 on the offensive end) compared to Catalan’s team total of 22 rebounds. The top volume free throw shooting team in Division 1 a season ago in both takes and makes, the Hogs made 16-of-21 at the line (76.2%) compared to Catalan’s 20-of-29 (69.0%). Arkansas was whistled for 25 fouls, and Catalan only 15 fouls.
“There’s a lot of things to take away,” fourth-year Arkansas head coach said Musselman in post-game. “We can’t turn the ball over at halfcourt. That team did not press. That team played zone for 35 percent of the game, and we still turned the ball over 23 times. So that’s not good. That’s a nightmare, to have 23 turnovers in a basketball game. So we’ve got to get a lot, lot better. The defense speaks for itself. That’s going to change, will change.
“And then offensively, my gosh, 23 turnovers against a team that doesn’t press and doesn’t have great athletes. Those are all self-inflicted wounds. We were quicker at every single position. We were longer at every single position. But yet we turned the ball over 23 times. This is great, though. You know what you get? You get evidence for everybody to see. So you guys can see it, fans can see it, parents can see it. And then a rotation is formed. A lot of things we’ve got to get better at.”
Senior forward Kamani Johnson recorded a double-double — 10 points (2-of-3 field goals and 6-of-6 free throws), 12 rebounds (9 offensive), 3 assists, 1 steal in 20 minutes — as he is averaging a double-double through the first two games in Europe (11.0 points and 10.5 rebounds). Sophomore forward Trevon Brazile had 14 points (7-of-10 field goals), 2 blocks, 2 steals, 2 assists, and 1 rebound in 22 minutes.
Junior wing Ricky Council IV had 13 points (4-of-7 field goals, including 1-of-1 from 3, and 4-of-6 free throws), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in 21 minutes. Freshman 3/4-combo forward Jordan Walsh had 12 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal in 21 minutes. Freshman wing Barry Dunning, Jr. chipped in 10 points (5-of-8 field goals), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in 21 minutes.
Freshman point guard Anthony Black finished with 4 points, a team-high 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal in a team-high 29 minutes. In addition to Davis’ 17 points (on 7-of-9 field goals, including 1-of-2 from 3, and 2-of-2 free throws), the junior contributed 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block in 26 minutes. Smith’s 17 points came on 7-of-14 field goals, including 3-of-8 shooting from distance (37.5%), while he also had a team-high 3 steals to go with 2 assists and 1 rebound in 21 minutes.
Arkansas trailed 12-4 out of the gates, fought back to go up by 10 points on a Dunning transition dunk before holding a modest 6-point at halftime, then moved back into a double-digit lead on Smith’s second triple early in the third quarter. Smith had 10 points in the quarter as the Hogs led by as many as 16 points.
But Catalan refused to go away, hitting back-to-back triples to open the fourth quarter as part of a spurt that whittled the Hogs’ advantage down to 8 points. From there, Davis was a blur in transition and he hit a three-pointer off the bounce as he notched 11 points down the stretch to help Arkansas pull away.
Arkansas wrapped up the Spain portion of its foreign tour with a 2-0 record and a 31.0-point averaged winning margin as the Hoop Hogs will now make the short trek to Italy for two more games before returning home to Fayetteville on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
Next up is a matchup against against Orange1 Basket Bassano at 12:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, Aug. 13, in Lake Como, Italy, followed by a tilt with the Bakken Bears at noon CT on Monday, Aug. 15, also in Lake Como, Italy. All games are set to be live-streamed via FloHoops.com.
Musselman improved to 6-0 all-time in exhibition games as Head Hog, which includes 2-0 marks just prior to each of the ’19-20 and ’21-22 seasons (the Razorbacks did not play exhibition games in the shortened ’20-21 campaign due to the covid-19 pandemic).
Musselman started the quintet of Smith, Walsh, Davis, senior forward Jalen Graham, and senior center Makhel Mitchell.
The Hogs opened the first quarter sluggishly and after suffering 6 quick turnovers found themselves trailing 12-4 before Council, Brazile, and Dunning each contributed multiple scores to help the team claw within a 24-20 deficit to start the second quarter.
Council hit the Hogs’ first three-pointer of the game, Brazile went to wok inside for a couple of scores, Dunning scored a layup after a steal, then Smith hit 5 consecutive points — a spinning lay-in followed by a three-pointer — to send the Hogs ahead 37-34.
Walsh strung together 6 straight points — four coming on two monster dunks off dishes from guard Anthony Black — as the Hogs went ahead 43-37. Dunnings dunk in transition pushed the Arkansas lead to double digits, 47-37, before Catalan Elite closed the half on a 6-2 run to pull within 49-43 at halftime.