Searching for his role on the team, freshman guard Moses Moody of Little Rock cast himself as the lead and broke out with career-highs in scoring and rebounds — 24 points and 9 boards, which were also game-highs — to pace the Arkansas Razorbacks to a 72-60 win over Texas-Arlington on Wednesday at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Arkansas (3-0) has the best record in the SEC in the early going of 2020-21 as second-year head coach Eric Musselman improved to 15-1 in non-conference games while leading the Razorbacks. Arkansas is now 9-0 in the all-time series against UTA. The Mavs (1-3) stayed close in previous losses against Oklahoma State and Louisiana Tech, losing by a combined 12 points, which was the final margin in UTA’s loss at Arkansas on Wednesday.
Moody made 6 of his first 7 shot attempts and fueled a couple of Hog runs (he scored 7 points in a 15-5 spurt early in the first half, and he had 6 points in a 15-2 run early in the second half) as he had risen to 18 points when Arkansas led 59-38 with 13:05 left in the game. Moody finished 7-of-12 from the field (58.3%), including 2-of-3 from 3 (66.7%), and 8-of-10 from the free throw line (80%) for his 24 points in 31 minutes.
“I was just able to get started early,” Moody said. “The ball was coming to me, the game felt good, I just let the game come to me. Lately I’ve just been searching for my role with the team. I’m a role player. So is LeBron James, so is Kevin Durant, so is (Matthew) Dellavedova. Everybody has a role on their team to help their team win, so I’ve just been searching for mine.”
Musselman was impressed with the all-around game from Moody, who is now 23-of-26 from the free throw line (88.5%) on the season.
“Another night where Moses Moody (was) double-digits free throws attempted,” Musselman said durinig his post-game radio interview. “A total of 9 rebounds — 6 defensive — which when he rebounds at a high level it changes the complexion of our defense. We want him to be able to have the freedom to push the basketball.”
Senior graduate-transfer guard Jalen Tate had 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in 33 minutes. Sophomore big man Connor Vanover had another offense-efficient night, scoring 12 points (5-of-6 field goals, including 2-of-3 from 3) to go with 2 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 steal in only 12 minutes. Senior grad-transfer Justin Smith contributed 11 points, a game-high-matching 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal in 35 minutes.
Freshmen and Arkansas natives Jaylin Williams (3 rebounds, 2 drawn charges, 1 block, 1 steal in 12 minutes) and KK Robinson (3 points and 1 assist in 13 minutes before fouling out) played well off the bench for the Hogs. Junior guards JD Notae and Desi Sills struggled shooting the ball, making a combined 2-of-11 from the field en route to combining for 8 points.
“I thought off the bench Jaylin Williams was phenomenal in his minutes,” Musselman said. “I thought he did all the little things: Took a couple of charges, rebounded the basketball … I thought KK did a good job other than his fouling. Connor scored 12 points in 12 minutes. (Tate) is kind of a jack-of-all-trades, does a little bit of everything for us. He kind of can play mutliple positions.”
As a team, Arkansas — the worst rebounding team in the SEC a season ago — won the battle of the glass (43-30) for the third time in three games. The Hogs have started the season plus-52 on the boards. Arkansas also dominated second-chance points (21-6), points-off-turnovers (20-10), points-in-the-paint (28-14), and fast-break points (11-4) against UTA.
Arkansas won the assists (12-7), turnovers (14-11), blocks (4-3), and steals (8-7) as well. The Razorbacks (10.0) and Mavs (10.3) entered the game both averaging double-figures in steals per contest with UTA guard Shahada Wells (3.3) and the Hogs’ Moody (3.0) and Smith (3.0) among the individual leaders nationally in steals per outing.
Arkansas shot 25-of-62 from the field (40.3%), including 7-of-21 from 3 (33.3%), and 15-of-19 from the free throw line (78.9%). The Hogs limited UTA to only 21-of-43 field-goal shooting (38.9%), including 7-of-19 from 3 (36.8%). The Mavs made 11-of-16 free throws (68.8%).
Arkansas’ next game is at home on Saturday against Lipscomb (1-2) of the ASUN Conference. Game time is set for 5 p.m. CT at Bud Walton Arena and will be livestreamed via SEC Network Plus.
For the second consecutive game, Musselman started the five of Sills, Smith, Moody, Tate, and Vanover.
With Arkansas trailing 7-4 early, Moody scored 7 points (a dunk, a drive down the paint for a lay-in, and his first three-pointer of the game) to fuel a 15-5 Hogs run and a 19-12 lead. Notae and Vanover would each splash a deep triple as part of a 10-2 spurt that pushed Arkansas to a 29-18 lead. Freshman guard KK Robinson hit a left-corner three-pointer to give the Razorbacks their biggest lead of the first half, 44-31.
Moody led the way in the opening 20 minutes with 12 points (4-of-4 field goals, including 2-of-2 from 3, and 2-of-3 free throws) and 4 rebounds as Arkansas led 44-33, at halftime. Vanover had 8 points (3-of-3 field goals, including 2-of-2 from 3) in the first half. Smith had 7 points and 5 rebounds, and Tate contributed 7 points and 4 assists. Notae scored 5. Williams had 3 rebounds, 1 block, and 2 drawn charges playing 7 minutes off the bench.
In the first half Arkansas shot 15-of-32 overall field goals (46.9%), including 6-of-14 from 3 (42.9%), and 8-of-10 free throws (80.0%). The Hogs won the first-half rebounding battle (23-15), second-chance points (11-2), points-in-the-paint (18-6), and fast-break points (7-0).