In a matchup of a poor three-point shooting team (Northern Iowa) and a poor three-point shooting defensive team (Arkansas), UNI discovered super powers from from distance (17-of-37 for 45.9%) while Arkansas lost starting guard Devo Davis to a flagrant-2-foul ejection early in the second half, but once again the 16th-ranked Razorbacks found ways to dig out of a hole as they eventually dispatched of the hot-shooting Panthers, 93-80, on Wednesday at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Senior guard Chris Lykes came off the bench to lead the Hogs with a game- and season-high 26 points, and his three-pointer at the 4:10 mark tied the game at 75-all. Including that Lykes’ triple, Arkansas outscored UNI 21-5 to close out the game for a 13-point winning margin.
Senior guard JD Notae scored 17 points to go with a game-high 9 assists and 8 rebounds for the Hogs. Sophomore big man Jaylin Williams of Fort Smith had a season-high 11 points and a season-high 7 assists to go with 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1 steal.
Senior combo forward Au’Diese Toney had 13 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block. Senior combo forward Stanley Umude finished 10 points and a game-high 9 rebounds.
Davis, a sophomore from Jacksonville, had 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal in 23 minutes when he was ejected at the 14:55 mark of the second half with the Hogs up by only 3 points, 49-46.
The teams battled back and forth throughout the contest with numerous ties and lead changes before the Hogs took control in the final four minutes of the game.
It was the first ever meeting between the Hogs (3-0) of the SEC and the Panthers (1-3) of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Panthers came in as one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the nation at 31.5% while the Hogs were yielding 41.9% from distance to opponents coming in.
With his team’s win, third-year head coach Eric Musselman improved to 22-1 against low-to-mid-major teams and 48-19 overall as Head Hog.
“A really, really, really experienced team,” Musselman said of UNI during his post-game radio interview. “They’re gonna win a lot of games this year, we know that. To score 93 points and only have 5 turnovers, really really proud.”
Arkansas was solid for the second consecutive game in terms of assists-to-turnovers (21-5) and offensive three-point shooting (10-of-24 for 41.7%) after struggling in both departments in the two-game exhibition season as well as the season opener. The Hogs were dominant in points-in-the paint (42-16 for a plus-26 advantage) and bench scoring (40-20 for plus-20). They were also plus-1 on the glass (39-38), plus-7 in turnovers (12-5), plus-8 in fastbreak points (20-12), and plus-12 in points-off-turnovers (20-8). UNI was plus-5 in second-chance points (16-11).
Overall, the Hogs shot 36-of-69 from the field (50.7%) and 13-of-17 from the free throw line (76.5%). Arkansas missed only one free throw in the second half, shooting 13-of-14 from the line in the final 20 minutes. Overall, UNI was 27-of-67 shooting from the field (40.3%), which means the Hogs were strong defensively inside the arc while holding the Panthers to 10-of-30 shooting on two-point attempts (33.3%). UNI was 9-of-13 at the foul line (69.2%).
“I’m feeling good,” said Lykes, who was 8-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3, and 6-of-7 at the foul line for his 26 points. “A win is always good. I think we fought hard, especially the last eight minutes when Devo went out. The team really pulled together and just fought hard. It’s great to win like that.”
Senior 6-5 guard Trae Berhow led UNI with 23 points (including 7-of-11 shooting from 3) to go with 6 rebounds and 2 steals. Junior 6-4 guard AJ Green (4-of-13 from 3) and freshman 6-4 guard Nate Heise (2-of-4 from 3) each scored 16 points for the Panthers.
Arkansas owns a decisive 14.3-point average winning margin in their three home victories so far in 2021-22, and that includes the Hogs’ 86-69 triumph over Gardner-Webb on Saturday in a game they led by as many as 31 points. Add in a 13-point season-opening come-from-behind win over Mercer, and Arkansas’ first three non-conference opponents currently have a combined 2-8 record.
But now the Razorbacks will play outside of BWA for the first time this season as the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo., is up next with neutral-site games against unbeaten Kansas State (2-0) on Monday and either No. 10 Illinois (2-1) or unbeaten Cincinnati (3-0) on Tuesday.
Musselman sent out Davis, Williams, Notae, Toney, and Connor Vanover to start together for the second game in a row.
UNI led 12-7 when the Hogs rattled off a 7-0 spurt for a 14-12 lead as Davis, Williams, and Stanley Umude each scored. The Panthers regained the advantage, 17-14, before Lykes went off for a one-man 9-0 run, including a twisting, off-balance circus-fling off the backboard and into the basket, that gave the Hogs a 23-17 lead.
But UNI splashed three consecutive triples in a 64-second span followed by three made layups in taking its biggest lead, 32-26.
Notae, who had 11 first-half points, scored on a driving layup, assisted inside for a Vanover dunk, and hit a three-pointer to fuel a 14-6 half-closing run to send the Hogs into the break with a 40-38 lead. Lykes led Arkansas with 12 points off the bench in the opening half.
UNI’s 9-of-17 shooting from 3 (52.9%) was a continuation of Arkansas’ perimeter defensive struggles. The Hogs were 6-of-16 from distance (37.5%) in the first 20 minutes, and they had 9 assists against only 1 turnover.
The Panthers out rebounded the Razorbacks, 23-21, in the first half. UNI was 3-of-6 from the foul line while Arkansas was actually worse — 0-of-3 — at the charity stripe.