Fordham has a new head coach and No. 10 Arkansas has a rebuilt roster.
Both teams won their season openers and now will face off Friday night in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Razorbacks didn’t have star freshman Nick Smith Jr. available but still rolled past visiting North Dakota State 76-58 on Monday night.
Smith, a preseason first-team all-Southeastern Conference selection, watched from the bench because of a right knee injury that has him day-to-day.
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said Wednesday of Smith’s status for Wednesday, “I would anticipate he’s not going to play.”
In his absence, other newcomers led the way. Wichita State transfer Ricky Council IV had 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting and Missouri transfer Trevon Brazile came off the bench to score 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting and grab 12 rebounds.
“Somebody had to step up,” Council said. “That’s what we did.
“It was fun. I still don’t think we played our best basketball, and we came out with a W against a pretty good team. … It’s a good win. At the end of the day, we’ve got stuff to work on. We’d rather work on stuff through a win than a loss.”
Musselman praised Council for his aggressiveness.
“His energy when he had the ball was phenomenal,” said Musselman, who led the Razorbacks to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight each of the past two seasons. “I thought he had great bounce off the dribble, thought he attacked the rim really well. I thought he did a great job of just being really, really aggressive while also not turning the ball over.
“He’s a really, really good mid-range shooter and his 3-point shot when his feet are set, he can make 3 balls, as well. So teams are going to have to guard him at the 3-point line and if they don’t, he’s going to have games where he makes two or three threes and that opens up the rest of his game.”
Council and Brazile were among eight players who made their Razorbacks debut in the opener.
Also on Monday night, Keith Urgo made his debut as Fordham’s head coach in an 88-74 home victory over Dartmouth.
It was his first game as a head coach after more than a decade as a college assistant. Urgo was the Rams’ associate head coach last season when the team finished 16-16 following 2-12 campaign in 2020-21.
Urgo said of the Rams’ performance on Monday, “They didn’t get rattled even when we were down 10-0.”
In fact, Fordham answered that 10-0 start by Dartmouth with a 10-0 run of its own to quickly pull even.
Darius Quisenberry led the Rams with 20 points. Khalid Moore added 18 on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed a game-high seven rebounds, Antrell Charlton scored 16 and Kyle Rose had 11. Fordham shot 57.4 percent (35 of 61) from the floor.
“We have a ton of depth,” Urgo said. “On any given night, we have 10 or 11 guys who can play a good amount of minutes.”
The Rams outrebounded Dartmouth 35-28 and held the Big Green to 42.4 percent shooting on field-goal attempts.
“Our staple is defending and rebounding,” Urgo said.
–Field Level Media