FAYETTEVILLE — Basketball returned to Barnhill Arena on Saturday complete with Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson in attendance.
Arkansas' Red-White game attracted an announced crowd of 4,559 fans. It featured Team Eddie against Team Nolan. The two coaches that combined to go 199-23 in 19 seasons in Barnhill. This was the first basketball game in the arena since the 1993-94 season.
New Arkansas coach Eric Musselman divided the team up and then split them into two halves. The first half the Red team dominated the White squad 44-21. In the second half, Musselman had the players switch teams. In the end, the Red team won 77-39.
"I thought this was really good for us," Musselman said. "The training camp time segment is one where you're going against each other every day behind closed doors. You are doing a lot of skeleton work, 5-on-0 work and a lot of drills when there's contact. To play in front of fans and have the lights on and referees was much needed after grinding all summer and then this segment for us."
Musselman was very pleased to see both Richardson and Sutton make it to the game.
"When we first tossed the idea around I don't think we ever could of envisioned Coach Richardson and Coach Sutton would be here together," Musselman said. "To be able to do the photo op afterwards with our guys. Monday we will really dive into the history of both coaches and what they did for this program."
Isaiah Joe led the Red team with a dozen points while Jeantal Cylla added 11 and Connor Vanover and Reggie Chaney each had 10. Chaney led the White squad with nine points.
"Now we've got a two-week stretch before we get to compete again," Musselman said. "But this will be a great opportunity for our staff to individually watch some film with guys and also to watch it collectively as a team and try to clean up some of the areas from an execution standpoint."
The Red team made 31-of-52 from the field and hit seven of 21 three-point attempts. They made eight free throws in 10 attempts. The White squad shot 14-of-45 from the field and only made two three-point shots in 14 attempts. They hit 9-of-13 free throws.
"I thought from an execution offensively we might probably be a little ahead of where I thought we would be as far as spacing," Musselman said. "Defensively we've got to be a lot better in a lot of areas."
Musselman praised transfer guard Jimmy Whitt for his rebounding. Whitt had 14 points in the game, including eight with the Red team, but added six rebounds.
"I liked how he didn't force the issue from an offensive standpoint," Musselman said. "He's one of the best rebounding guards in the nation."
Joe, who is from Fort Smith Northside, also drew praise from Musselman.
"I thought especially from the first segment of the game offensively that Isaiah Joe was outstanding with his three-point shooting, spacing and not trying to force the issue," Musselman said.
Joe talked about how the game went for him and the team.
“I think overall we definitely did a lot of good things we did and some things we can definitely fix, but the goal was to go out there and have fun,” Joe said. “The first times fans seeing us play, I think we came out with a lot more energy in the first half than they did in the first half, but in the second half it was vice-versa, but overall I thought it was a good debut.”
Senior Adrio Bailey had six points and a half dozen rebounds for the Red team and then added another rebound and two points for the Whites.
"I thought Adrio Bailey did a great job of slashing and getting extra possessions," Musselman said. "He took two shots that were mid-range shots that we don't feel are in his wheelhouse so to speak and we discussed that with him."
Vanover, the 7-foot-3 transfer from California, also added five points while playing for the White team to give him 15 for the game. Arkansas is still awaiting word on a possible waiver from the NCAA that would allow him to be eligible immediately.
"I hate to bring it up but we're a lot different when he's on the floor," Musselman said. "Because he spaces it. He adds a dimension from his size factor, but his three-point shooting when you put him out there with some of other guys our spacing just opens up. Then there's a lot more dribble drives. It's not often you say your dribble-drive lanes open up when a 7-2 or 7-3 guy is on the floor. But when Connor's on the floor our passing becomes a lot better, our rebounding becomes a lot better and our offensive flow becomes a lot better."
Musselman said there's no timeline for when the Razorbacks might hear something from the NCAA regarding Vanover's waiver. Vanover hit three-point baskets on the first two possessions of the game for the Reds. He hit half of his six three-point attempts.
Joe also talked about Vanover and what he brings to the team as well as the possible waiver.
“Connor has been playing great,” Joe said. “You saw what he can do out there. He can stretch the floor. He is 7-3 and can shoot the ball and it is hard to contest. That is definitely what he did, he helped stretch the floor.
"About the waiver, I mean hopefully he can still get his waiver, but we never know. Even if he wasn’t able to get it, we have to learn to work around that, which I think we will do. But if he play on the court with us, I think it would be able to help us tremendously.”
In the first half, the Red team dominated the boards winning that battle 21-9. Musselman felt that was the difference in the game to that point.
"You are gonna hear that theme before and after each game how we rebound is gonna dictate the end results for us," Musselman said. "At halftime, the team that was clearly executing better they were also rebounding the ball and getting extra possessions. The team that got by a significant margin didn't rebound the ball at all. I could have gotten out there and rebounded myself as well as that group."
Musselman said Whitt, Vanover and Joe are three players that seem to like the lights being on. Joe liked the fact this game was played in Barnhill Arena.
“I had never played in there before, but it was like a new playing field, a neutral site kind of, but I thought it was pretty cool to do a throwback game and have the fans come in there, too, because the fans haven’t been in there in awhile," Joe said. "Just being in there, I think everybody realized how things have come so far and how things have progressed. I just think it was a great idea to play in Barnhill.”
Arkansas will host Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 20, at 3 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks will unveil Nolan Richardson Court that day.