The No. 9 Arkansas Razorbacks had their own dunk contest as they beat Louisville 80-54 Monday in their Maui Invitational opener in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,400 at the Lahaina, Hawaii Civic Center. .
The Razorbacks (4-0) finished with 11 dunks, including six on a 17-0 run over a 5:51 span that pushed their lead from 52-42 to 69-42 with 4:29 to go .
Louisville (0-4) went 6:30 without scoring when Arkansas took full control of the game, and the Cardinals had 10 turnovers in that span – including five by leading point guard El Ellis – and shot 0 on 3 from the field.
“When we play defense, it gives us a lot of energy,” Arkansas first-year guard Anthony Black, who had 26 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals, said at a press conference. post-game. “In fact, we like to play defense and are proud to play defense.
“That leads to a lot of easy dunks, which gives us a lot of momentum.”
The Razorbacks take on No. 10 Creighton (5-0) at 7 tonight on ESPN. The Bluejays opened with a 76-65 win over No. 21 Texas Tech on Monday.
“They kept the pressure on,” Louisville coach Kenny Payne said of the Razorbacks at a postgame press conference. “They kept the energy and brought it more. And we collapsed.
The Cardinals shot within 43-38 on second-year forward JJ Traynor’s hook shot with 14:26 to go, but were then overwhelmed by the teeming Razorbacks.
More from WholeHogSports: Analyze the eruption of Razorbacks on Cardinals
“I thought they had outplayed us,” Payne said. “They wanted more. But that’s what great teams do. There’s a reason they’re top 10 in the country, and they’ve shown it.
The Razorbacks again played without first-year guard Nick Smith — a preseason First-Team All-SEC pick by coaches and media — as he continues to recover from a knee injury.
Smith, who has yet to make his college debut, watched from the bench and cheered on his teammates, as did a large contingent of Arkansas fans.
“I think a lot of us grew up watching this tournament, so we saw what the atmosphere would be like,” Black said. “But playing there is always different.
“I think we had great support from the fans and that fueled our energy.”
The Razorbacks shot 56.9% (29 of 51) from the field for the game and in the second half shot 68.0% (17 of 25), including 14 of 17 on hallway attempts.
Louisville had four assists to the Razorbacks’ 20.
“I just thought we were getting more and more comfortable as the game went on,” Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said on the post-game radio show. Arkansas. “Both offensively and defensively.
Musselman said for the first time this season, the Razorbacks used a play he called “52 red fists” with double screens for Black.
“I thought that was going to open up some dribble drives for Devo Davis,” Musselman said, referring to the Arkansas junior guard. “And what that did was it opened up all three for Anthony Black.”
Black became the first Razorback other than junior guard Ricky Council to lead Arkansas in scoring.
Council, a transfer from Wichita State, finished with 15 points, 4 steals and 3 rebounds.
Black made 9 of 11 shots, including 3 of 5 three-pointers and 5 of 5 free throws.
More from WholeHogSports: First win in Maui sets up rare top-10 showdown for Razorbacks
“With a great point guard like Anthony Black, he played his full game today,” Council said on an Arkansas radio show. “He scored the ball and he assisted.
“I know he hit me on some wide open. He will do this throughout the tournament.
Black entered the game averaging 6.0 points, but he was looking for his shot more with Smith out and sophomore forward Trevon Brazile struggling with foul issues.
“Anthony does so many things,” Musselman said. “And to think he had two more assists than the entire Louisville team is a true testament to his selflessness for sure.”
Brazile, a 6-10 transfer from Missouri, averaged 14.0 points in the first three games but was limited to 15 minutes on Monday after committing two first-half fouls. He hit 1 of 2 free throws for his only point and was 0 of 2 from the field.
“My teammates just put a lot of faith in me and trust me to have the ball,” Black said. “I know I have a lot of talent around me, so it’s not a pressure for me to do everything.
“We have a lot of good players, so I can just be me. Let the game come to me, then just help us win and have fun.
Mahkel Mitchell, a 6-10 senior transfer from Rhode Island, had 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocked shots and 2 steals in 20 minutes off the Arkansas bench.
“We were having a lot of fun,” Mitchell said. “We were connected.”
Mahki Mitchell, a 6-9 senior and Makhel twin who also transferred to Arkansas from Rhode Island, started and had 5 points, 6 rebounds, 1 blocked shot and 1 assist.
“I thought Mahkel was really good. I thought Mahki played well,” Musselman said. “They block shots for us. They give us interior defence. They give us great height.
“I think they did a really good job patrolling the paint defensively.”
Senior forward Jalen Graham added eight points for the Razorbacks and freshman forward Jordan Walsh scored seven.
More from WholeHogSports: Musselman, Black and Mitchell recap victory over Louisville
Makhel Mitchell led Arkansas with four dunks, Graham had three, and Black and Council each had two.
Freshman forward Kamari Lands led Louisville with 13 points. Ellis, who came into the game averaging 24.0 points, was held to 11 on 4 of 16 shooting and had 7 turnovers.
Davis scored two runs — he hit the first field goal of the game to give the Razorbacks a lead they never lost — but Musselman credited it with defending Ellis.
“Phenomenal defense by Devo,” Musselman said. “But then I thought the other four guys on the floor with him had done a great job of shrinking the floor. [against Ellis].”
The Cardinals shot 36.4 percent (16 of 44) and had 22 turnovers.
Arkansas outshot Louisville 38-16 in points in the paint, 29-19 in points on turnovers, and made 14 of 19 free throws.
“They’re great athletes, a great team,” Traynor said in a post-game press conference. “And they just kept the pressure on us throughout the game. Respect to them for playing the defense they did.
The Razorbacks tied their all-time record against Louisville at 4-4.
“Arkansas, give them lots of credit,” Payne said. “This length, this athleticism, they are difficult to manage.
“They are very well trained. Musselman does a great job with them. They will only get better. And they are young.