As No. 9 Arkansas and No. 17 San Diego State each head into their third game in three days, the key word going into the third-place game in the Maui Invitational on Wednesday between may well be resilience.
The Razorbacks lost a 90-87 thriller to No. 10 Creighton in one semifinal on Tuesday in Lahaina, Hawaii. Hot-shooting Arizona, ranked 14th, then fended off a San Diego State comeback attempt and went on to an 87-70 win in the other semifinal.
“I think after this game, I feel like we have a lot to prove,” said Aztecs guard Darrion Trammell, who scored a team-high 21 points. “(Facing Arkansas is) going to be a good matchup for us as well to prove to ourselves that we’re better than what we are. … I think we’re going to be ready for it.”
Trammell led the charge at the end of the first half as San Diego State (4-1) trimmed a 16-point deficit with just over five minutes left to four by intermission. Then, a 9-3 run gave the Aztecs a 42-40 lead early in the second half before Arizona went on its own 10-1 run.
“It’s early in the year. We’re going to get better,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said.
He added that his message to his team was, “Come on, this is college basketball, how much fun is this? We can’t get too down on ourselves. We’re playing college basketball in Maui. We have to put this behind us or we’ll have no chance to play tomorrow.”
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman was more tight-lipped after his team’s loss. He still appeared to be upset over the officiating, after he drew a technical foul in the second half for protesting a call against the Razorbacks’ defense.
“I’ve coached a lot of games, a lot of years, never seen anything like it,” he said during a postgame radio interview. “We’ll never face more adversity. I can’t see it, facing more adversity than we faced tonight.”
Creighton shot 58.5 percent from the floor, including 50 percent (7 of 14) on its 3-point attempts. The Bluejays also attempted 29 free throws, making 21, while Arkansas (4-1) hit 13 of 17. Six of the eight Arkansas players in the box score had at least three fouls, and the other two combined to play only seven minutes.
Asked during his postgame press conference if he could appreciate the quality of the game so soon after coming out on the losing end, Musselman replied, hardly convincingly, “Yeah, it was a good game. It was a great game. Great game.”
Referring to his team allowing Creighton’s success from long range, he said, “We got in a little bit of foul trouble, so our defense, whatever, we lost by three points.”
Freshman Anthony Black led the Razorbacks with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, and Ricky Council IV played all 40 minutes and scored 24 points, going 9 of 19 from the field.
Arkansas trailed 40-34 at halftime, and not even a 53-point second half was enough to complete the comeback.
Council said his team knew what Creighton was going to do and just didn’t execute accordingly.
“We just had some big slipups in the first half,” said Council, who is averaging a team-best 19 points per game. “I take a large part of the responsibility on that. The second half we played much better. We just came up short. We will bounce back tomorrow.”
–Field Level Media