Arkansas accumulated more turnovers than assists in its season opener and two exhibition games, prompting coach Eric Musselman to emphasize ball movement.
The No. 16 Razorbacks’ 23-assist, nine-turnover output in an 86-69 romp against Gardner-Webb on Saturday met Musselman’s expectations.
“We addressed the assists,” he said. “We played the right way.”
Arkansas will aim to keep things going Wednesday night as a season-opening, three-game homestand concludes with a visit from Northern Iowa.
The Razorbacks will continue to look to Davonte Davis to help facilitate the attack after he had a career-best six assists Saturday.
Filling the void left by the graduation of point guard Jalen Tate, Davis shifted to the point after primarily seeing minutes at shooting guard or small forward as a freshman last season.
“I know coach Muss has been talking about needing a point guard, so I’m just going to continue to evolve and continue to get better at the point-guard position, Davis said. “I didn’t play there much last year, so it’s just about becoming a true point guard to get everyone involved so it can help the team out.”
So far, so good, in the view of teammate Connor Vanover, who paced Arkansas with 19 points of 7-for-12 shooting from the field while on the receiving end of three Davis assists.
“I expect him to have a lot of assists every night,” Vanover said. “He has really good vision, can see everybody on the court. He knows how to make really good passes and find people.”
In the frontcourt, Jaylin Williams is exhibiting similar characteristics through two games. Musselman said it has been “absolutely incredible” to play through the 6-foot-10 Williams, who twice has matched his career high with five assists.
Northern Iowa and coach Ben Jacobson lost their first two games of the season, but it was a different story in their third game.
In thumping visiting Dubuque 95-58 on Sunday, the Panthers pushed the ball with greater precision while shooting a season-best 61.3 percent from the field.
Noah Carter led four players in double figures with 17 points and made four of the team’s 14 3-pointers.
“One of the things we talked about a lot was our pace and wanting to get the ball — on a missed shot in particular — wanting to get the ball out and get it up the floor in a hurry with the dribble or with throwing that basketball ahead,” Jacobson said.
“That was pretty evident today. The guys did a good job of that, really a good job of moving the basketball, I think in particular on that defensive rebound, so there was immediate pressure on Dubuque. And then I thought in the half-court, our cutting was better.”
Northern Iowa had 26 assists and 10 turnovers while outscoring Dubuque 44-20 in the paint.
Wednesday will mark the start of a three-game trip for the Panthers, who will have more preparation time between games than during the first week of the season. After visiting Arkansas, the team won’t play again until Nov. 27 at St. Bonaventure.
–Field Level Media