Arkansas, North Texas ready for stiffer competition


It may be only one game into the season, but North Texas and Arkansas already have soundly beaten a common opponent.

Both the Mean Green Eagles and Razorbacks earned convincing season-opening wins over Mississippi Valley State, with Arkansas prevailing 142-62 on Wednesday and North Texas beating the Delta Devils 116-62 on Thursday.

North Texas and Arkansas will each vie to go 2-0 on the young season when they meet at Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.

After winning the Conference USA title last year, North Texas returns three starters, most notably league player of the year Javion Hamlet, a guard who averaged 14.6 points per game as a junior in 2019-20.

Senior guard James Reese and senior forward Zachary Simmons are the other returning starters for the Mean Green.

North Texas hit a school-record 21 shots from 3-point range in the win over Mississippi Valley State.

“First and foremost we are thankful to be playing,” North Texas coach Grant McCasland said after the game. “It’s a blessing to be able to play and we’re thankful for all the North Texas staff members who have helped us get here.”

Arkansas had a near-record performance in its blowout of the Delta Devils.

The Razorbacks scored the second-most points they ever have in a game and the 20 shots made from 3-point range was one short of a school record.

Eight players scored in double figures for Arkansas.

“I asked the guys before the game if they were nervous, and I don’t know if I’ve had a team say, ‘Yeah,’ but they did,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said, “They raised their hands and were honest. It’s been a long time since we competed.”

The Razorbacks finished 20-12 last season (7-11 in Southeastern Conference play) but lost guard Isaiah Joe to the NBA draft off last year’s team.

The leading returner is junior guard Desi Sills (10.6 points per game), but Arkansas hit the transfer market over the offseason to plug roster holes.

Grad transfer point guard Jalen Tate came over from Northern Kentucky, forward Justin Smith arrived from Indiana and forward Vance Jackson came into the program from New Mexico.

Jackson in particular made a good debut in an Arkansas uniform, scoring 15 points and pulling down seven rebounds.

“The big thing with Vance is just doing it consistently,” Musselman said. “In the Mountain West, I thought he was one of the best players in the country on any given night. It’s going to be very important for Vance every single night through 27 games to get himself mentally focused and mentally ready to play like he did (Wednesday).

“He can help us in so many different areas because he’s got great length, great size, he can play off of the bounce, he can shoot the 3 and he’s an underrated post player as well.”

–Field Level Media

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