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The Arkansas Razorbacks (19-12) will try to spark a postseason run Thursday when they take on the Auburn Tigers (20-11) in the second round of the SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Thursday’s matchup features a pair of teams that are projected 9-seed’s in Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracketology. While Auburn was able to beat the Razorbacks 72-59 back on Jan. 7, both teams have changed a bit since then.
“We played great here at home,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “They weren’t at full strength. They didn’t have Nick Smith. They were at a time in their season where they weren’t shooting the ball well at all, and we took full advantage of it by playing 40 possessions of zone. We probably have played 80 possessions of zone on the season, 40 of them in that game. But that was just because Arkansas was struggling so much from three.”
Fast forward to this point in the season, and Arkansas has added Smith and it’s shooting the ball much better from three. The Hogs are shooting 39.3% (33-of-84) from 3-point range in the last five games with the full return of Smith, who is 11-of-29 (37.9%) from three and his presence has allowed the rest of the team to be 22-of-55 (40%) from beyond the arc.
It will take much more than shooting well from three to beat Auburn, though. The Tigers have a big man in Johni Broome who is second in the conference in rebounds per game and third in blocks.
“How our front line plays out in this first game, not really sure,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said. “Obviously Kamani (Johnson), the Mitchell twins, (Jalen) Graham. All those guys … how we defend Broome is still a work in progress. We had one practice yesterday where we looked at several different ways to guard both their up front guys and then maybe trying to guard their back court a little bit differently as well.”
Along with defending Broome, the Razorbacks will need to keep a close eye on guard Wendell Green Jr., who took out his frustrations from a loss at Arkansas last season during the first meeting this season.
Green was on the wrong end of Davonte Davis’ exclamation point slam at the end of Arkansas’ 80-76 upset of then-No. 1 Auburn, and that was on his mind when he scored a team-high 19 points against the Razorbacks on Jan. 7.
“I was thinking about that the whole time,” Green said. “I couldn’t wait to play that game. And now I get another chance to play against them — we get another chance to play against them. It’s a lot that goes into it, but it should be fun.”
Here are details on how to watch/listen, notes, projected lineups, stats, odds and more for Thursday’s game between Arkansas and Auburn:
~ This will be the 59th meeting between Arkansas and Auburn. All but one (a meeting in the 1967-68 season in Oklahoma City) have come since Arkansas joined the SEC. The Razorbacks own a 37-21 advantage in the series.
~ This will be the second neutral site meeting between the schools. Auburn won the first-ever meeting 65-58 in Oklahoma City on Dec. 28, 1968. The other came on March 12, 2000, when Arkansas defeated Auburn, 75-67, in Atlanta to win the SEC Tournament championship.
~ Earlier this year, Auburn snapped a three-game losing streak to Arkansas, but the Hogs have still won 13 of the last 18.
~ Arkansas is 29-29 all-time in the SEC Tournament and this will be just the second time Arkansas has faced Auburn in the SEC Tournament.
~ This will be the 11th year the SEC Tournament will be held in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Arkansas is 8-9 all-time in Bridgestone Arena, reaching the finals twice (2015 and 2017) and the semifinals twice (2001 and 2021).
~ Thanks to 513 points this year and ranking third in the SEC in scoring (16.5 ppg), Ricky Council IV is just two points shy of 1,000 for his career
~ Arkansas is having its best run of success guarding the 3-point arc over the last five games. Opponents are shooting a mere 23.2% (21-of-91) from deep including Florida making just 4-of-21 (19%) and Alabama making just 3-of-22 (13.6%).
How to Watch/Listen
Who: Arkansas Razorbacks (19-12) vs Auburn Tigers (20-11)
When: Thursday, Mar. 9 at 6 p.m. CT
Where: Nashville, Tenn. – Bridgestone Arena (18,500)
Television: SEC Network (Tom Hart, Dane Bradshaw, Alyssa Lang)
Stream/Online: WATCH ESPN
Radio: Learfield Razorback Sports Network (Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman)
Gameday Info and How to Listen Online/Mobile: Razorback Gameday App
#0 – G Anthony Black – Fr., 6’7″, 198 lbs.
2022-23 Stats per game: 34.6 min, 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.0 steals, 3.1 turnovers, 0.5 blocks, 46.3 fg%, 32.1 3fg%
#3 – G Nick Smith Jr. – Fr., 6’5″, 185 lbs.
2022-23 Stats per game: 25.3 min, 13.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.3 turnovers, 0.2 blocks, 39.5 fg%, 34.0 3fg%
#4 – G Davonte Davis – Jr., 6’4″, 185 lbs.
2022-23 Stats per game: 33.1 min, 10.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 2.0 turnovers, 0.1 blocks, 41.7 fg%, 35.3 3fg%
#15 – F Makhi Mitchell – Sr., 6’9″, 230 lbs.
2022-23 Stats per game: 19.9 min, 6.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.9 turnovers, 1.4 blocks, 64.9 fg%, 100 3fg%
#22 – F Makhel Mitchell – Sr., 6’10”, 240 lbs.
2022-23 Stats per game: 14.3 min, 4.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.6 turnovers, 1.7 blocks, 62.5 fg%
#1 – G Wendell Green Jr. – Jr., 5’11”, 175 lbs.
2022 Stats per game: 28.0 min, 13.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.27steals, 2.7 turnovers, 36.6 fg%, 29.1 3fg%
#12 – G Zep Jasper – Grad-Sr., 6’1″, 185 lbs.
2022 Stats per game: 18.3 min, 3.0 points, 0.9 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 turnovers, 33.0 fg%, 29.2 3fg%
#22 – G Allen Flanigan – Sr., 6’6″, 220 lbs.
2022 Stats per game: 26.4 min, 9.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.8 turnovers, 0.3 blocks, 44.3 fg%, 34.7 3fg%
#2 – F Jaylin Williams – Sr., 6’8″, 230 lbs.
2022 Stats per game: 28.0 min, 11.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.2 turnovers, 0.8 blocks, 47.5 fg%, 36.5 3fg%
#4 – F Johni Broome – So., 6’10”, 235 lbs.
2022 Stats per game: 26.2 min, 14.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.8 turnovers, 2.4 blocks, 52.5 fg%, 28.6 3fg%
Vegas: Arkansas is a 1.5-point favorite (BetSaracen)
ESPN: Arkansas has an 55.0% chance to win
(some information courtesy of Arkansas and Auburn Communications)
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