NCAAB: No. 9 Arkansas, No. 10 Creighton expect tough duel
No. 9 Arkansas will play its first top-10 matchup during the regular season in nearly 28 years when it faces No. 10 Creighton on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational in Lahaina, Hawaii.
Arkansas (4-0) and Creighton (5-0) have dominated every opponent they’ve played. The Razorbacks have won their four games by an average of 21.3 points after an 80-54 victory over winless Louisville on Monday. Creighton’s victories have been by an average of 23.2 points per game following a 76-65 win over No. 21 Texas Tech on Monday.
Arkansas last played in a top-10 regular season matchup when the then-No. 9 Razorbacks defeated then-No. 5 Kentucky on Jan. 29, 1995. Creighton has played in just three top-10 matchups in its history, with the last one being when then-No. 8 Bluejays lost to then-No. 5 Kansas on Dec. 8, 2020.
Freshman Anthony Black scored 26 points to go along with six assists, three rebounds and two steals against Louisville after scoring 18 points in the Razorbacks’ first three games of the season combined. Ricky Council IV added 15 points vs. the Cardinals, while Makhel Mitchell finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
“Anthony does so much,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “To think he had two more assists than the entire Louisville team is a real testament to his unselfishness for sure.”
The Razorbacks, who led by as many as 27 points in the second half, shot 29 of 51 (56.9 percent) from the field on Monday, including 8 of 22 (36.4 percent) from 3-point range. Arkansas outrebounded the Cardinals 28-24 and scored 29 points off Louisville’s 22 turnovers.
“I thought defensively we were phenomenal in both halves,” Musselman said.
But Musselman is impressed by Creighton, which had all five starters score in double figures against the Red Raiders.
“I think that our team has continued to grow, and we knew coming into this tournament that we were going to have some really challenging games,” Musselman said. “That, obviously, is going to be a real challenge to play Creighton.”
Arthur Kaluma had 18 points for Creighton on Monday, while Trey Alexander added 17 and Ryan Nembhard chipped in 16. Baylor Scheierman racked up 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Ryan Kalkbrenner had 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks despite injuring his ankle in the first half.
“Thank goodness Kalkbrenner was tough enough to play through a pretty good sprained ankle,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, “because his presence at the rim and on the glass for us is so important.”
The game was tied at 31 at the break, but the Blue Jays opened the second half on a 23-12 run to seize control.
“First time on the road with this team, maybe they were anxious and excited,” McDermott said. “We certainly weren’t ourselves early in that game. We had as many turnovers in the first 20 possessions, I think, as we’ve had in four games. So once we settled in, I thought we were pretty good.”
Tuesday’s game will mark the teams’ first meeting in nearly 60 years.
Arkansas knocked off the Bluejays 73-61 at the All-College Tournament on Dec. 29, 1962, after Creighton won the teams’ first meeting 29-28 in 1932.
–Field Level Media