BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Undersized but not outgunned, Arkansas was determined to take their best shots at Indiana on Sunday night.
That meant a 3-point barrage, for better or for worse. It’s why the Razorbacks fell behind by double digits when those shots weren’t falling, and also explains how Arkansas rallied to a 71-64 road win with a late surge from long range.
“We had to make 3s to survive,” said Arkansas first-year coach Eric Musselman, whose team trailed 50-39 with 16:04 remaining.
The Razorbacks field a starting lineup of four guards and a tallest player at 6-foot-6, so perimeter play is vital. Sophomore guard Isaiah Joe started the comeback with one of his six 3-pointers. Junior guard Mason Jones hit four.
“Me and Mason, we feed off of each other,” Joe said. “For a quick second, I felt like everything I threw up was going to go in. I’m a shooter, so I’m going to keep shooting the ball no matter what.”
Arkansas made 12-of-31 from beyond the arc, but most importantly 8-of-17 in the second half.
“We need (Joe) to make threes,” Musselman said, “or we’re going to struggle.”
Joe scored 24 points, his only two-point basket tying the game at 61. Jones, who scored 21, sank 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give the visitors a 67-62 lead with 2:01 remaining as part of a 17-1 run down the stretch.
“Every game, we hear the same thing: ‘How is Arkansas going to match up with people?’” Musselman said. “Well, they also have to match up with us because we play four guards and we space the floor and we’re hard to match up with when we’re knocking down 3s.”
Arkansas (11-1) limited Indiana (11-2) to just three points in the final 8:08.
“Our offense let us down,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said.
So, too, did the perimeter defense.
“You’re playing against some really good shooters, some guys who can really stretch the floor and put you on islands,” Miller said. “Inevitably they made some timely ones to not only hang in, they also made some big ones to go up and give them some confidence.”
The Hoosiers hurt themselves by missing half of their 18 free throws and were just 2 of 8 on 3-pointers. It also didn’t help that one of their best perimeter players, junior guard Aljami Durham, was ejected five minutes in for a throwing a retaliation elbow.
Indiana freshman center Trayce Jackson-Davis dominated inside in scoring 16 of his 20 points in the first half. The Hoosiers led 38-33 at intermission. Jackson-Davis threw down his fourth dunk early in the second half. But then everything changed.
“I just need to be more aggressive, post up harder,” Jackson-Davis said.
Arkansas stressed limiting his touches in the second half, and it worked.
“By eliminating Trayce Jackson-Davis’ inside shot attempts and make them beat us from the perimeter, I thought it changed the game for us,” Musselman said.
The matchup was a rematch of a March NIT second-round game at the same venue, which Indiana won 63-60. Arkansas edged Indiana 73-72 at home in November of 2018.
Arkansas: While the overall record is impressive, the Razorbacks have yet to face a ranked opponent, so this road win over a quality foe mattered more. Arkansas has no choice but to rely on that 3-point shooting (12-for-31). That’s why the Razorbacks trailed by so much but were able to rally for the win.
Indiana: The young Hoosiers are going to experience growing pains like this when they don’t defend the perimeter effectively. Previous breakdowns seemed isolated, but there was no mistaking how this game turned around so quickly.
Arkansas: Hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.
Indiana: At Maryland on Saturday.