Wednesday December 30th, 2020
Arkansas Razorbacks vs Auburn Tigers
Network: ESPN2, Auburn Radio Network
After a chance to go home for the holidays and recharge, Auburn Basketball returns to the court tonight as they get their SEC season started as they host the Arkansas Razorbacks this evening inside Auburn Arena. Auburn comes into tonight’s game on a 5-game winning streak and at 6-2 overall. Meanwhile, Arkansas is 8-0, with all 8 of their wins coming in the friendly confines of Bud Walton Arena. This will be the biggest test so far for the Hogs while Auburn looks to begin their role of playing spoiler throughout the SEC this season with the postseason ban in place.
Get to Know Arkansas
For an Arkansas perspective on tonight’s matchup, go back and check out my Q&A with our friends from Arkansas Fight that I posted yesterday.
As a team, Arkansas is averaging 90 PPG so far this season and is shooting a very respectable 35% from 3-point range this season.
Coach Eric Musselman has done a terrific job at recruiting both in the state of Arkansas but also on the transfer market as 9 players on this year’s roster began their career at another school.
Arkansas has a potential one-and-done on their roster in freshmen guard Moses Moody (#5). Moody played his freshmen year of HS at the same high school in Little Rock that Auburn’s Allen Flanigan attended and then spent 2 of his years of high school at Montverde Academy, where Justin Powell spent a short period of time before returning to Kentucky.
Moody is averaging 16.9 PPG and 5.6 RPG so far this season. He is shooting 41.7% from 3-point range this season as well.
Junior guard JD Notae (#1) sat out last year after transferring from Jacksonville. He is 2nd on the team in scoring despite coming off the bench, averaging 14.3 PPG. He is the team leader in shots taken, and 3-pointers made this season while averaging 30% from 3 on the season.
Junior guard Desi Sills (#3) is the leading returning scorer from last year’s team, averaging 13 PPG and almost 2 steals per game. Sills shot nearly 46% from 3 in the team’s last 14 games last season and is 37.9% from long range this season.
As far as the frontcourt goes for Arkansas, grad transfer forward Justin Smith (#0) is averaging 12.5 PPG and 7.5 RPG this season after coming over from Indiana.
Another grad transfer is guard Jalen Tate (#11) from Northern Kentucky. He is averaging 9.9 PPG and leads the team with nearly 5 assists per game. Tate was the 3-time Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year before heading to Fayetteville for his final year of College Basketball.
And then there’s 7’3” sophomore center Connor Vanover (#23) who returned home to Arkansas after spending his first year at California. Vanover, the Little Rock native, is averaging 8.6 PPG, 2.5 BPG and is also a 40% 3-point shooter.
Keys for Auburn
Big 3 Play - I think this will be a game where the Big 3 has to step up and carry the Tigers. Justin Powell, Jaylin Williams and Allen Flanigan need to all have a big game in order for the Tigers to win this game. Flanigan has been a revelation during the non-conference season and has begun to show up in mock NBA drafts for next season which I didn’t see coming when this season began. Flanigan has taken over the role Samir Doughty played last season and ran with it, averaging 13.8 PPG while also improving his 3-point shooting drastically. And it’s a game against his home state as well.
Bench Energy - Dylan Cardwell, Stretch Akingbola and Chris Moore have performed quite a 3 person tandem of big men off the bench this season bringing defense and tons of energy. Cardwell has been getting more minutes over the past few games.
Make 3-Pointers - Auburn can’t win this game if they don’t shoot well from 3. This would be a great time for Devan Cambridge to find his shooting stroke and knock 4-5 3s which he’s shown he’s capable of doing in the past. It’s been a tough start for him averaging just 22.2% from 3 but at some point, I have a feeling he’s going to put it together and have a big night. Perhaps it’s tonight?
This is a big game for both teams as each team looks to start SEC play on the right foot, but it’s also a big recruiting game as both of these schools have been battling for recruits quite frequently lately. Auburn got Chris Moore, while Arkansas got Jaylin Williams, and there’s several more battles coming between the two schools. I think it’s a close game throughout but with the Tigers playing at home, I think Auburn finds a way to pull this game out at the end.