The Arkansas basketball team opened the 2021-2022 college basketball season with a 74-61 win over the Mercer Bears on Tuesday night in Bud Walton Arena.
It was an up-and-down opener for a Hogs squad that will take some time to gel. The Hogs trailed by eight points at the half before opening the second half on a 14-2 run. That game was never truly in doubt from that point on.
Head Coach Eric Musselman played nine players but generally kept to a short bench with five guys logging at least 25 minutes, and four Hogs competing for at least 30.
Below, we’ll give out two game balls and one set of extra laps to Hog players based on their performance against Mercer.
Game Ball #1: Arkansas basketball guard Au’Diese Toney
We’re starting with Au’Diese Toney because Musselman himself started in the same place. Musselman stated that Toney was the player of the game, according to ESPN, because of how much he helped the team.
Toney finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and two assists in 37 minutes of action last night for the Hogs.
What’s even more impressive is that Toney scored 18 points on just nine shots. That level of efficiency is the stuff that an analytics staff’s dreams are made of.
Toney, a Pittsburgh transfer, wasted no time making his impact on a new fan base.
Game Ball #2: Arkansas basketball guard JD Notae
The Hogs are going to live and die in the hands of JD Notae. There’s not a doubt in my mind about it.
Last night, Notae delivered with a stat line of 30 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 7 steals. On that surface level, Notae is an obvious recipient of a game ball from last night.
Digging a bit deeper, Notae was 11-26 from the field and 5-14 from three. Shooting splits of 42.3% and 35.7% are not terrible numbers for a player with his usage rate (38% according to Sports-Reference College Basketball.)
Still, heavy is the head that wears the crown of leadership, and Notae definitely deserves some criticism. Some of his shot selection last night left you questioning whether he should have the ball in his hands as much as he does.
They were falling for him last night. Let’s hope that continues.
Extra Laps: Arkansas basketball guard Devo Davis
It was an off night for Sophomore Devo Davis. It is far too early to call this a Sophomore Slump, but it was definitely an out-of-character game for Davis.
Davis attempted 0 shots in 34 minutes of action. He did finish with four rebounds, three steals, and one assist to go along with five turnovers.
The per 100 possessions data is where last night gets most worrisome. Davis had a 10.3 offensive rating last night (for comparison Toney and Notae had a 157.4 and a 117.4 respectively). Davis also had second-worst defensive rating out of the players who played at least 30 minutes.
The Hogs were at their best last year when Davis was their defensive anchor. They need the same from him this year.
The No. 16 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks will take on the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs Nov. 13 on ESPN+