Final: Arkansas 91, Missouri 84
- Starters for Mizzou: Jordan Butler, Nick Honor, Noah Carter, Sean East II, Tamar Bates.
- Jordan Butler knocks down a pair of free throws for Mizzou. 2-0 Tigers.
- The Razorbacks respond with a Trevon Marks jumper and a Khalif Battle 3-pointer. 5-2 Arkansas.
- Noah Carter knocks down a 3-pointer at the top of the key. Tied at five.
- Nick Honor turned the ball over on an inbound pass but Noah Carter blocked Battle on the other end. 7-5 Arkansas at the first media timeout.
- Connor Vanover has scored Mizzou’s last five points. He had a put back following a Carter miss followed by a 3-pointer on the next trip down. Mizzou still trails 12-10.
- The scoring drought has hit. The Tigers haven’t scored in 2:08. Arkansas leads 16-10.
- Its now a 6-0 run for Arkansas following a Tramon Mark dunk. Razorbacks lead 18-10.
- Tamar Bates ends a 4:23 scoring drought with a jumper. It cuts the lead to 20-12.
- Now its getting ugly. Keyon Menifield Jr. knocks down a 3-pointer. The Razorbacks lead extends to 25-12.
- East makes it a 10-point game once again. His first points of the night.
- But Mekhi Mitchell scores over Vanover. Back to a 12-point game.
- Vanover with a dunk. Back-and-forth.
- Followed by a Lawson dunk. 31-19.
- Sean East II knocks down a 3-pointer. It cuts Arkansas’ lead to nine.
- Bates two free throws. 35-26 Arkansas.
- 10-0 run by Arkansas. The Razorbacks are getting everything inside and lead 45-26.
- Jordan Butler ends Mizzou’s scoring drought with a tip-in.
- Halftime: Arkansas 47, Missouri 26.
- Nick Honor splashes a 3-pointer...cuts the lead down to 18.
- The first media timeout has hit and Mizzou trails 59-40. The Tigers are shooting 38.2% from the field.
- Mizzou has cut Arkansas’ lead to 15 behind Tamar Bates and Curt Lewis. Its a 63-48 game with 13:27 left in the game.
- Arkansas is experiencing a bit of a scoring drought. Its a 13-point game following a pair of Anthony Robinson II free throws. 71-57 Arkansas.
- Tamar Bates cuts the Razorbacks lead to 11. 4:27 left. This could get interesting.
- Trevon Mark silences the crowd. 77-64.
- Final: Arkansas 89, Missouri 81.
Eric Musselman and the Razorbacks are in town. Thus, it’s time for yet another edition of what is becoming one of the SEC’s more intense basketball rivalries.
Unlike last season, these two squads have struggled mightily for much of the year. They enter with a combined 1-13 record in conference play, and inconsistencies have plagued both sides.
Per usual, this game carries heavy implications for both team’s postseason outlooks and overall perception of their seasons. The atmosphere will be tense and the margin for error will be razor thin.
The return trip for Mizzou is on February 24th. Let’s look at how the Tigers can walk into Bud Walton Arena looking for the sweep.
Time: 7:30 p.m. CST
Date: January 31st, 2024
Location: Mizzou Arena, Columbia, Mo.
TV: SEC Network
PG: Sean East II (Grad, 16.2 PPG)
SG: Nick Honor (Grad, 10.5 PPG)
SF: Tamar Bates (JR, 13.0 PPG)
PF: Noah Carter (Grad, 11.9 PPG)
C: Connor Vanover (Grad, 4.0 PPG)
Notable Sixth Man: Aidan Shaw (SOPH, 3.3 PPG)
PG: El Ellis (SR, 5.6 PPG)
SG: Khalif Battle (SR, 11.5 PPG)
SF: Tramon Mark (JR, 17.4 PPG)
PF: Chandler Lawson (SR, 4.3 PPG)
C: Jalen Graham (SR, 6.1 PPG)
Notable Sixth Man: Trevon Brazile (SR, 8.9 PPG)
*These are projected starters. Also, in today’s college basketball, positions rarely mean much. Those are included purely for perspective on what matchups on the court may look like.
Get To Know Arkansas
The Coach: Eric Musselman.
People either love him or hate him, and there doesn’t appear to be any in-between. Musselman’s coaching career began with the semi-pro Rapid City Thrillers in 1989, whom his father Bill Musselman also coached during his lengthy career. Eric then tested the water in the NBA, moved back down to the semi-pro level, then coached a myriad of NBA teams in a variety of roles.
And would ya know it? After nine years in the NBA he went right back to the newly dubbed NBA G League for a bit, then worked as an assistant with Arizona State and LSU.
Now, we finally get to the climax of Musselman’s story: His tenure as Nevada’s head coach from 2015-19, during which he recorded a 110-34 record and three Mountain West regular season titles. He also appeared in three straight NCAA Tournaments, highlighted by a Sweet 16 run in 2018 as a No. 7 seed. The Wolfpack were, of course, upended by another Cinderella in Loyola Chicago that season. There’s always a bigger fish.
Still, his teams at Nevada were incredibly entertaining to watch, spearheaded by the twin duo of Caleb and Cody Martin. His up-tempo offensive system has translated well to Fayetteville, as the Razorbacks have qualified for the NCAA Tournament in three-straight seasons and have appeared in a pair of Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight.
He’s fiery, passionate and loud. He’s an elite recruiter, great motivator and takes his shirt off sometimes. Hate him or love him, Musselman is one of the better coaches in the SEC.
The Season Thus Far: The beginning to the season was rocky for Musselman and Co. A 78-72 loss to UNC Greensboro after a 3-0 start was concerning, and the Hogs only picked up a win over Stanford in the Battle 4 Atlantis before losing to Memphis and North Carolina.
An ensuing upset win over Duke at Bud Walton Arena highlights the Arkansas résumé, but after a 79-70 loss to Oklahoma in mid-December, the victory over the Blue Devils remains the only marquee non-conference victory.
SEC play has not offered many more notable results. Losses to Auburn, Georgia and Florida kicked things off, and the Razorbacks found themselves at the bottom of the SEC standings as a result. A signature win over Texas A&M at Bud Walton could have been season-altering, but Arky followed that up with double-digit losses to South Carolina and Ole Miss. The Razorbacks had a golden opportunity to pull off a season-defining upset over Kentucky at Bud Walton this past weekend, but they fell short 63-57.
The Key Stats: Offensively, Arkansas is *almost* a typical Musselman-coached team. The Razorbacks get to the line at a high-level, attempting nearly half as many free throws as field goals. They shoot 50% from inside the arc, but a paltry 31.7% mark from 3-point land is what separates this group from years’ past.
On the other end, the Razorbacks really knows how to block shots. Arkansas ranks 4th in the nation by blocking 16.3% of opposing players’ attempts, and it translates to only allowing teams to shoot at a 46.9% clip from 2-point range. But, they really struggle to force turnovers (328th in the nation in that regard).
Arkansas is also 2-9 against Quads 1 and 2, while the Razorbacks are 8-1 against Quads 3 and 4.
The Stars: Given the fact that Musselman hit the transfer portal heavily over the offseason, it makes sense that a pair of newcomers lead the way for this team.
6-foot-6 guard Tramon Marks, formerly of Houston, spearheads the offensive attack with 17.4 PPG on 50% shooting. He’s a dynamic player that can score at all three levels (37% from 3-point range) and has been a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Khalif Battle used to play at Butler and Temple, and he complements Marks well. The veteran guard duo of Marks and Battle headlines yet another backcourt-driven team for Musselman, and these two are nearly impossible to stop when they get into a rhythm.
Of course, former Tiger Trevon Brazile plays for Arkansas. The notoriously outspoken player averages 8.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 1.3 BPG, and he’s still one of the most physically gifted players in the nation. I would imagine that he will not receive a warm welcome inside Mizzou Arena, and he is also looking to come back from some knee soreness that sidelined him for the second half of the Ole Miss game and all of the contest against Kentucky.
Veteran guard Davonte Davis stepped away from the team prior to the game against the Wildcats.
3 Keys To The Game
- Stay within your game amidst plenty of chaos
This environment will be insane, the pace of play will be insane and the consequences of a loss are insane.
With all of that being said, the biggest key to this game will be to treat it like any other. You can’t get consumed by the energy and emotion of this rivalry game, partially because Arkansas is talented enough to weather the storm and partially because Mizzou has proven that it really can’t win a game that isn’t within its own style. This Tiger team’s experienced leaders need to shine in this one, and perhaps more importantly, keep the rest of the group composed throughout the ebbs and flows.
2. Get Nick Honor/Noah Carter going offensively
Alongside Sean East II, Mizzou fans expected Honor and Carter to be among the scoring leaders on this team.
Through seven games of SEC play, this duo has scored in double-figures on six occasions combined. Not the worst number, but not what you need from two of your veteran leaders.
For this team to mount any form of late-season rally to take positive momentum into next year, either Honor or Carter (preferably both) have to regain some form of offensive rhythm. Personally, I’d even just want to see it for their sake—for them to be able to finish their lengthy and productive careers off with success.
3. Win the battle for shot quality
It’s a battle that I feel Mizzou has lot for much of this season, and against an offensive-minded team like Arkansas, the loser generally is the one that has to take tougher shots. And, with the kind of length and athletes that the Razorbacks put on the floor, they have the ability to easily alter opposing teams’ shots.
Thus, Mizzou will need to figure out a way to match that and disrupt Arkansas’ offensive rhythm. That could come from forcing Tramon Marks or Khalif Battle into some low-quality looks, or perhaps by just creating a plethora of turnovers.
KenPom Prediction: Missouri 74 | Arkansas 71
My Prediction: Missouri 71 | Arkansas 67
Regardless of the quality of the two sides, this rivalry generally generates some intense, physical basketball. And, these two teams are well-equipped to participate in another classic given their offenses and desperation to win this game.
The start to SEC play has left much to be desired. Mizzou has fought hard in nearly every conference game it has competed in, but crunch time has been a plague on the Tigers over this winless stretch. Remedying that is the only way for this team to get over the hump and pick up its first conference victory of the season.
Handling the emotions of this rivalry is priority number one. From there, the Tigers need to have their veteran presences show up, and win the battle for shot quality in order to pick up that elusive first conference win.
“Basketball in general is about ups and downs,” Honor said following the Florida loss. “Losing sucks, but in the SEC, it’s a quick turnaround, so we just have to move on to the next one and try to be 1-0.”
In the end, I think the home crowd motivation and some hot shooting will carry the Tigers to a rivalry victory, although it will certainly be another nail-biter in the series.