The loudest ovation of the afternoon was when Nick Smith Jr. hit the first three-pointer of the day for Arkansas on Saturday at Simmons Bank Arena.
The second loudest was when Smith, a graduate of North Little Rock High School and a McDonald’s All-American there, was introduced in the starting lineup to the sellout crowd of 16,675.
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At least that was the case until the roof blow off with 12:27 remaining in the first half after freshman guard Jordan Walsh flew through the sky for back-to-back dunks as the No. 10 Razorbacks rolled past Bradley, 76-57.
While the game had some highlight reel worthy moments, it was a relatively lackluster effort from Arkansas even though, at points, they played like a second weekend NCAA Tournament team.
Youth was part of the issue. Also, Smith, who was the SEC’s Co-Freshman of the week, went to the locker room early in the second half and didn’t return to the game.
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman addressed Smith’s condition in the post-game press conference.
“He got taped back up at halftime and it felt a little off,”: Musselman said. “There wasn’t a need to put him back in.”
That’s partly because Walsh was playing spectacularly well.
Walsh led all scorers with 18 despite fouling out of the game with 7:06 remaining after he was called for a flagrant foul.
He was asked in the post-game presser about the technical.
“Which one,” he asked back?
He had also been whistled for a technical earlier in the game, a fact unaware to at least one teammate.
“You got a techie,” Anthony Black said with a laugh.
The hijinks aside, it was a balanced effort as Black finished with 15, while Ricky Council IV had 16 in the win.
Devo Davis, a Jacksonville product, also had an all-around great effort as the guard finished with 7 points, 7 rebounds, five steals and three assists.
“I thought he was unbelievable,” Musselman said of Davis’s impact on the game. “Just his effort. His energy. How he attacked passes and five steals is a lot of steals for one player.”
As a team Arkansas forced 27 turnovers and that led to 37 points for the Hogs.
Smith finished with five points, and was just one of eight shooting from the field, he still finished with 20 minutes of game action despite missing most of the second half.
The Razorbacks are now 11-1 and return to action this Wednesday, Dec. 21, when they host North Carolina-Asheville at Bud Walton Arena. Then a week off for the Christmas holiday before heading to Baton Rouge to face the LSU Tigers with new coach Matt McMahon and guard Justice Hill, a transfer from Murray State, and the son of former Arkansas assistant football coach Fitz Hill.
Bradley falls to 7-4 on the year.