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Musselman now has to ‘feed the beast’ by winning games

Eric Musselman took it personal when an analyst questioned his coaching ability and used it for motivation and now Hog fans will expect it.

Eric Musselman is probably going to find out pretty quickly he’s got to keep feeding this beast that woke up Sunday evening across Arkansas.

Beating Texas Tech, 68-66, in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday evening put the Razorbacks into the Sweet 16, the measuring stick many fans use as the minimum requirement.

For most fans, that’s an expectation based on history they’ve only read and heard about. The Hogs haven’t been this far since 1996, which was the last of 10 Sweet 16 appearances over an 18-year stretch.

“Words can’t describe it,” Musselman said after the win Sunday night.

He had a little motivation before the game, too. Some guy that got a job as an analyst on CBS Sports said Musselman was going to be seriously out-coached by Red Raiders coach Chris Beard.

“I’m surprised we could do that,” Musselman said after the win. “I was alerted before the game about somebody on CBS who said something about the coaching matchup, so I was a little shocked we could actually win a close game based on his comments.

“Whoever that guy is, I’ve never heard of him in my entire life. So his credibility is absolutely zero. But anyway, coaching in a lot of games, I hope that experience helps. The NBA game, when you get to coach 82 games, there’s a lot of close games instead of a college season of 30.”

To be honest I’d never heard of him, either.  Not being an expert on basketball I base my opinions on the wins and losses. The rest of it is over my head.

He took it personal.

“I brought it up right away, right?” he said later. “Yeah, I take it personal. I mean, who is this guy? He’s never called a timeout. I mean, who is the guy? I don’t know who he is.

“Yeah, I took it personal. My son brought it to me whenever the thing went out. I knew right away. So, yeah, I take it personal when someone says something like that.”

The first coach of the Hogs to talk about feeding the monster also had things he took personal. There were folks who questioned Nolan Richardson’s ability to coach, too.

One thing I discovered years ago if you want to raise the blood pressure of any coach, just question his ability to coach.

Musselman can coach and at a championship level. That was clear last year when it might have been really interesting if there had been an NCAA Tournament, but covid canceled that.

This year he got the Hogs to second in the SEC regular season and to the semifinals of a conference tournament that really doesn’t mean a whole lot.

The games they’re playing now are the ones that matter.

Arkansas is playing at a high level right now. There are 31 others playing pretty good, too, and the Hogs have a date with this year’s Cinderella next week when they face Oral Roberts for the second time this season.

Musselman likes coaching a team an entire state is behind. It’s enjoyable when you’re winning and an entire state is behind you.

But now he’s find out he’s got to keep feeding the beast.

Hog fans have high expectations … every year.

Just like Musselman.

Game notes by Arkansas Communications

• For the first time on record, Arkansas did not record one steal in the game.

• Musselman has trailed by double digits in each of his four NCAA tournament wins (two at Nevada and two at Arkansas). Arkansas has been down by double digits in the first half in five of its last six wins including down 14 to Colgate and down 10 to Texas Tech.

• Arkansas is 403-115 all-time as a ranked team and improves to 101-154 when playing a ranked team. Arkansas is 14-3 as the No. 10 team and is 5-3 when playing the No. 21 team.

• Arkansas improved to 44-32 in the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas is now 10-10 in second round games and improve to 3-1 as the #3 seed.

• Arkansas squared the all-time series with former Southwest Conference rival Texas Tech, 40-40. Arkansas has won 10 of the last 13 versus the Red Raiders.

• Arkansas advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 on the 40th anniversary of U.S. Reed’s historic halfcourt shot to beat Louisville (March 14, 1981) to advance to the Sweet 16.

• Jalen Tate was a perfect 6-of-6 at the free throw line to exact revenge on Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament. Tate’s Northern Kentucky team lost to Tech in the first round of the 2019 Tournament.

• Arkansas won its eighth NCAA QUAD 1 game over its last 12 contests.

• Only seven Razorbacks played in the win. It was the fewest in an NCAA game since March 14, 1979 versus Indiana State in the Elite 8. (HogStats.com)

• Arkansas’ starting lineup was Jalen Tate (G) – Davonte Davis (G) – Moses Moody (G) – Justin Smith (F) – Jaylin Williams (F) for the first time this season. It marked Jaylin William’s third start of the year.

• Arkansas won the opening tip. Arkansas is 15-3 when controlling the tip.

• Justin Smith scored the game’s first points, an old-fashion 3-point play at 19:43. Arkansas is 16-4 when it scores first.

• JD Notae was the first sub for Arkansas. It is the 14th time he has been the first sub and Arkansas is 12-2 in those games.

• Jaylin Williams drew two charges in the first six minutes of the second half pushing his team-leading total to 15. A few possessions later, Moses Moody drew his 12th charge of the season.

• Williams tied his career high with 10 rebounds. It marked the fourth time he has grabbed 10 boards in a game this season. His four assists were a career-high.

• Justin Smith has scored at least 20 points in his third consecutive game. He had never scored 20 in back-to-back games until this stretch. He has eight career 20-point games, five this season.

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