Unlikely lineup combination leads to Arkansas Razorbacks’ success in 81-55 win over Elon Phoenix

FAYETTEVILLE — After teasing some shake-ups the day before, Eric Musselman shook up more than just the starting five Tuesday night.

The Arkansas head coach gave three players – Jaxson Robinson, Chris Lykes and Trey Wade – their first starts with the Razorbacks in an 81-55 win over Elon, joining them with JD Notae and Connor Vanover.

It’s the second straight game with multiple changes to the starting lineup and, in fact, none of those five players started the previous game against Hofstra.

“The last couple games, the goal has been to try to give different guys starts so that we have a body of work, a body of film work over this break to decide exactly what we want to try to do heading into conference play,” Musselman said.

That group was unable to extend the lead to more than three points early on, though. It was not until Musselman went with a brand new lineup late in the first half that the Hogs started to click.

With 5:15 remaining in the first half, Wade and Robinson checked in alongside Little Rock transfer Kamani Johnson. The three played with Notae and sophomore guard Davonte Davis, and the group thrived.

From the moment that lineup was put together, the Hogs scored 15 straight points to take a 38-26 lead into halftime. Robinson did most of the scoring on three 3-pointers, but it was the interior defense and effort of the fresh players during the run that was vital for the Razorbacks.

“We had some guys that hadn’t had an opportunity to play a lot, and they were hungry, and they played,” Musselman said. “Some of the other guys who have had a lot of opportunity need to play with more energy because you cannot win in the SEC unless you have toughness and you play with great energy and you have a competitive will to win.”

During the run, Johnson recorded a career-high three blocks. Arkansas also controlled most of the second half thanks in large part to Johnson, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the half. The Hogs were plus-17 and gave up just 36.3 points per 40 minutes with him on the court.

“The scouting report, when we quizzed the guys today at shoot-around, he was on top of it,” Musselman said. “That’s what you want in a player, is when you give him an opportunity, (he capitalizes). … The one thing we know about Kamani is he’s tough and he’s not going to back down from anybody.”

Robinson’s game was the second in a row where he looked very confident with the ball in his hands. His 14 points were a career-high and he added three rebounds and a block to the performance.

Shooting from beyond the arc has been an issue for the Hogs for most of the season, but Robinson’s success from three against Elon helped to spread the court out for the Hogs.

“One thing about Jaxson Robinson, he can shoot the ball,” Johnson said. “Like, the skin off the ball. We’re going to need him to do that down the road and we’re all behind Jax. When it leaves his hands, you can trust that bench is up. We all feel like it’s going in.”

The performance by Wade won’t shine on the stat sheet, but his physicality on defense and in the paint on offense was vital for Arkansas. The Hogs were plus-26 during his season-high 21 minutes.

“Aw man, it was just playing together, playing hard,” Wade said. “Me and Kamani tried to step in and play our roles and play as hard as we can. We just are playing together. That’s the biggest thing for us. Our defense is very important, it gets you out in transition and makes the game a lot funner.”

After averaging 17 points over the past five games, Davis scored just one point Tuesday night. Other usual contributors like Jaylin Williams, Au’Diese Toney and Stanley Umude combined for just six points and each had a negative plus-minus.

Despite not lighting up the scoreboard, Davis – who set up a players-only meeting after the Hofstra loss – managed to rack up six rebounds and six assists with only one turnover. That led to some praise from his teammates after the game.

“Honestly, we don’t need him to score,” Johnson said. “If he scores, it’s great. If he doesn’t score, it’s great. Devo’s gonna affect the game either way, in a positive way.”

Musselman said the Hogs were lacking internal leadership from players, but said he feels like they are on the right track after Tuesday night. They will need all the leadership they can get with SEC play coming up next.

Arkansas will travel to Starkville, Miss., next Wednesday to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The game is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.


You might like

About the Author: NBA NEWS SITE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *