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Fresh faces abound when No. 10 Arkansas hosts NDSU

Sportsnaut
Mar 26, 2022; San Francisco, CA, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Eric Musselman reacts after a play against the Duke Blue Devils during the second half in the finals of the West regional of the men's college basketball NCAA Tournament at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Both teams will have lots of new faces on the court when No. 10 Arkansas hosts North Dakota State in their season opener Monday night in Fayetteville, Ark.

Coach Eric Musselman has 11 new players on his roster to begin his fourth year with the Razorbacks. Meanwhile, NDSU coach David Richman must replace five players — including top two scorers Rocky Kreuser (15.6 ppg) and Sam Griesel (14.3) — who accounted for 134 starts for the Bison last season.

“The best part about this group is that they’re so excited to learn. so excited to be challenged,” Richman said. “And they’ve been challenged real hard. But they keep showing up.”

The two teams had vastly different results in their final tuneups before heading into the regular season. The Bison posted a 34-point romp past Division II Minnesota-Crookston, while the Razorbacks absorbed a 30-point thrashing at 12th-ranked Texas in what Musselman described “as bad a 40 minutes of basketball since I’ve been involved in college basketball.”

“It wasn’t just one position. It was across the board is what it was,” Musselman said. “Their bigs getting into our bigs and our bigs not having the ability to put the ball on the deck even for a dribble handoff. Then the lack of making 3s.”

The Razorbacks were a mediocre 4-of-12 from behind the 3-point arc and allowed the Longhorns to go 10-of-16 from long range.

“At times we defended and other times we don’t,” Musselman said. “Again, if we’re going to struggle to shoot it, we have to do a much better job of being able to defend it.”

North Dakota State, meanwhile, was 15-of-34 on 3-pointers.

Defending the 3-point line may not be the only issue for the Hogs. The Bison also could challenge the Hogs inside with Andrew Morgan. A backup last season, Morgan has put an additional 10 pounds on his 6-foot-10 frame to go up to 245.

In just 18 minutes of the exhibition, he scored a game-high 22 points and hauled in seven rebounds. He also has a bigger head of hair to give him a more “menacing” appearance.

“I will take credit,” Richman said. “I’m behind the mop, the hair. I want that to be the nastiest looking dude around, and he’s bought in.”

Freshman Lance Waddles added 16 points for the Bison.

Musselman is hoping that the pounding at Texas will be a lesson for the Razorbacks, who had only two players — both freshmen — score in double figures. Jordan Walsh had 14 points and Nick Smith posted 12.

“We have 11 new guys so obviously we are going to be work in progress,” Musselman said. “How far that work in progress is I don’t know.”

In addition to the shooting (40 percent) and defensive woes (Texas shot 54.1 percent overall and 68.8 percent in the second half), the Hogs also committed 23 turnovers.

“I would love to tell you it was one thing and then we could correct it,” Musselman said. “It was a combination.”

–Field Level Media