Eric Musselman on the Hogs' win in Rupp and heating up
Eric Musselman and Arkansas have Kentucky Basketball‘s number right now with three straight wins in the rivalry; most recently, last night by 15 points in Rupp Arena. “Road Rage,” Musselman’s team scouting report read before the game.
Afterward, the hogs were called in downtown Lexington long after many of the Kentucky fans escaped the embarrassment early before the final horn sounded. When it did, the Arkansas players and coaching staff took a group photo in Kentucky’s home building with the traveling party of fans who followed the team to the Bluegrass.
Musselman was so fired up after the game.
When the Muss Bus rolled into his postgame press conference, he opened the conversation with a summary of his team’s overall performance in the win, crediting both the second-half defense and Arkansas’ continued offensive improvements. Defensively, the Razorbacks held Kentucky to seven fewer points in the second half with nine turnovers.
“I thought, you know, defensively we got much better in the second half,” Musselman explained. “But, you know, offensively, it’s a team that’s gaining more confidence. We did a really, really good job moving the basketball tonight and kind of shifting the defense.”
Arkansas had 19 in assists in the game, the most against an SEC opponent this season. Arkansas also shot 72 percent in the second half with 16 points off turnovers after halftime. Additionally, the Razorbacks held Oscar Tshiebwe to three points and two rebounds in 18 second-half minutes when the game was decided.
Musselman added, “Interior defense was really good. Thought we did a good job on 34, Oscar. I thought both Mitchells gave us great physicality inside and then our guard play to start the second half with Anthony Black, his steals were extremely important. Obviously, we have not been turning people over as much as we would like. But tonight, you know that changed and Kentucky has done a great job of playing with pace and getting out in scoring on the break. And tonight I thought it was it was our best transition offense that we’ve had all year.”
Arkansas had 19 layups and dunks on 32 made shots in the game.
Anthony Black and his 19 points, five assists, five steals, and four rebounds said, “Going into halftime we kind of knew we messed up a lot of things in the first half. We were still fortunate to have a one-paint lead. Coming out, we just wanted to crank up the defense and just get stops. That kind of led to run-out dunks and got us a lot of momentum.”
Arkansas heating up at the right time
At tip-off, Kentucky and Arkansas were two of the hottest teams in the Southeastern Conference with 10 straight wins between them—six for the Cats, four for the Hogs. Somebody had to lose and somebody was going to get hotter and further from the bubble.
40 game minutes later, Arkansas proved to be the team trending in the right direction with the signature Quad 1 win on Kentucky’s floor. Musselman said, “We just know we’re playing really good basketball at the right time. I think we’re a team that continues to improve. You know, I’ve seen some great growth defensively the last two games, but some crucial stops at crucial moments in the game. You know, so just really, really proud of how the team has continued to evolve and continue to improve.”
Today, Arkansas moved up to No. 24 in the NET while Kentucky dropped nine places the other way to No. 41, proving the significance of last night’s result; although, Joe Lunardi kept both teams on the the Last Four Byes line in his Wednesday update to ESPN’s Bracketology.
Another postgame line from Musselman:
“This is a resilient group. Again, I’m really proud of them. The huddles were great tonight, there was great communication amongst all five guys that were sitting in the chair. There was good communication by our bench, trying to help the guys that were on the floor. So a really great win.”
Must be nice.
WATCH: Eric Musselman after Arkansas won at Kentucky
Watch the latest John Calipari press conference on the KSR YouTube Channel.