Everything Eric Musselman said after Arkansas’ huge win over Georgia

Eric Musselman feels good about where his Arkansas basketball team is right now.

He has plenty of reason to be.

The Razorbacks rolled Georgia by the largest margin in the matchup’s history on Tuesday, 32 points, in a 97-65 win. A win, too, that kept Arkansas’ strong NCAA Tournament hopes in that state.

Musselman made a point after the game Tuesday to acknowledge where the Razorbacks’ NET ranking is. Arkansas is 15th in the country in that metric, which measures, in part, a team’s overall quality based off its strength of schedule and other factors. That slotting would yield an NCAA Tournament, especially if Arkansas wins at least one of its final three games.

But Musselman also pointed out how tough those games will be, starting with Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

Check out everything the Hogs head man had to say below. Note: Musselman’s remarks are paraphrased.

Nick Smith Jr.'s game

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Nick Smith Jr (3) dribbles as Georgia Bulldogs guard Justin Hill (11) defends during the first half at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

I thought Nick was phenomenal, not just offensively. I thought he did a really good job defensively, as well. For our team, that’s the most passes of any team I’ve ever had. Without going through the film we had it recorded as 266 passes. I don’t know that we’ve ever had a team over 250. Bench points were phenomenal for us. Nick obviously changes who we are with his perimeter shooting. Tonight, his 3-balls also opened up other looks for other guys from 3-point range, as well. Really good game on both sides of the floor tonight for us.

Hot shooting

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks forward Jalen Graham (11) shoots over Georgia Bulldogs center Brazen Bridges (23) during the first half at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

I think that our team has done a really good job of understanding our strengths and our weaknesses, especially offensively. We have not been a team that has made many 3s this year. But the team that we’ve had for much of the season, that’s not exactly the team that we’ve built. You can see the impact Nick had. The guys that have played, I give them a ton of credit because they kept hanging around and they competed every night. You add Nick and now we’re a much better and a way more well-rounded offensive team.

Just a matter of time for Smith?

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Nick Smith Jr warms up prior to the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

We see him every day and from a shooting standpoint, he’s been coming to Bud Walton on his own at night and stuff. That’s how you get your rhythm back. You can’t just rely on practice time. We can’t practice just for Nick. It was really important for Nick to take it upon himself to get the extra reps, whic he has been doing, for sure.

Anthony Black's passing

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Anthony Black warms up prior to the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

He’s got such great court vision and he’s so unselfish. The 266 passes, a lot of them are him being the trigger guy or the initial advance-pass guy. I thought we ran the floor better tonight than we have all year. We ran, scored points, had the most passes and didn’t turn the ball over. When you add all that stuff up, a lot of positives. I think we’ve won seven out of nine SEC games with two games we were right there and had an opportunity to win. Playing good basketball at the right time. Obviously finish the regular-season with three high, high-level opponents. We knew that the day the schedule came out.

Ricky Council went off

FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS – FEBRUARY 21: Ricky Council IV #1 of the Arkansas Razorbacks signals after making a three pointer in the first half of a game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Bud Walton Arena on February 21, 2023 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

It’s really important. I think we saw that a couple years ago with JD Notae, the importance of a guy that can come and if you’re not scoring the ball, can change. He’s such a good isolation player. Such a good free-throw attempt player. Certainly changes who we are when he’s making perimeter shots to go along with his transition dunks, transition points and free throws attempted.

Contained Roberts

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Anthony Black (0) shoots in the first half as Georgia Bulldogs guard Terry Roberts (0) defends at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Devo has been absolutely incredible. Not just tonight. Not just this year. I can go back to him guarding McClung and McClung just won the dunk contest and Devo in that tournament game was as good defensively as I’ve ever seen. He can take a star player and minimize the effectiveness of that player.

Sustaining offense

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks forward Jalen Graham (11) looks to pass in the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The one area that we’ve wanted to improve on is our turnovers and our self-inflicted turnovers. There have been a good portion of turnovers that are on us. Tonight was a huge step in the right direction. Personnel changes things. Nick being out there changes our spacing offensively which has an effect on turnovers. But, yeah, three really hard games. Our NET is at 15 right now. That’s about as high as it’s been since I’ve been here in four years. You go compete, you play hard, these games, your NET is not going to move too much with the guys that you’re playing. We’ve handled business these last nine games. Two of those games we wish we could have another possession or two, but it is what it is.

Extra depth helps with speed

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Nick Smith Jr (3) dribbles past Georgia Bulldogs guard Justin Hill (11) during the first half at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Nick runs really hard. I think if you look at our San Jose State game, the one game we were fully healthy, that was probably as good a running game and as good defensively. I think tonight, both sides, it’s easy to sub with Nick out there because you’ve got an extra offensive guy and like I said, he played very good defense tonight, as well.

Black's steals

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Anthony Black (0) defends a shot by Georgia Bulldogs forward Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe (12) during the first half at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

We just kept talking to Anthony about is getting lower. When he gets low defensively, he’s got such great hands. I think you’re seeing his growth as a defender right before our eyes. He’s playing much improved defensively here down the stretch. A lot of it has to do with getting low and picking up the ball earlier than he was. We felt like midpoint of the season we were not creating enough steals.

What'd Smith do defensively?

FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS – FEBRUARY 21: Justin Hill #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs goes up for a shot against Nick Smith Jr. #3 and Jordan Walsh #13 of the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first half of a game at Bud Walton Arena on February 21, 2023 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Being in the gaps. Being able to be a help defender and recover back. Right now in pick-and-roll defense, we’ve been really good in our coverages. Our bigs have done a phenomenal job. Our guards are pursuing. Nick did a phenomenal job in his rearview mirror pick-and-roll coverage. Our guards get behind the ball with the way we play and our bigs do a good job of protecting for a second or two. Really sound, Nick was defensively for us.

Devo's maturity in bringing value

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Davonte Davis (4) passes in the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

I think what he’s done all year is he’s providing what we need. We needed him to be really offensively aggressive. His shot selection the last two games has been phenomenal. He’s having fun out there. This is a team right now, chemistry-wise on the court, this is as good as we’ve been.

Largest margin ever against Georgia

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mike White during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

It’s kind of an important game, too, in my house. Danyelle’s sister Kim went to Georgia. But, look, we’re playing in Bud Walton, we’re playing the right way the last two games. We’re playing on both sides of the ball. If your’e only playing one side of the floor, you’re not going to have games like this. I know we’re playing in front of two soldout buildings the next two games. Three incredible environments we have an opportunity to play and compete in these next three games.

Zone offense

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Ricky Council IV (1) shoots a three point shot in the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Worked tonight. Changing personnel it looks different. As a staff, we’ve been studying WBNA, FIBA, we’ve looked about every zone clip we possibly can. About two weeks ago I assigned a staff memeber to call five different WNBA coaches because we’ve just been searching for how to get better looks. The zone offense that we’ve had, it’s been pretty good up until a certain stretch this year. You saw a lot more movement and cutting tonight against the zone.

Devo doesn't let things affect him

FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS – JANUARY 31: Davonte Davis #4 of the Arkansas Razorbacks passes the ball in the second half during a game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Bud Walton Arena on January 31, 2023 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Razorbacks defeated the Aggies 81-70. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Devo’s a leader for us. I feel like player-coach relationship with Devo, he and I kind of think alike. He’s got a competitive nature. The other guys all feed off his defense. He’s kind of the guy, it’s hard not to defend when you’re playing with Devo because he’s putting forth so much effort. When a player texts a coach and says ‘Hey, I want to see all the made baskets’ by the guy he’s being assigned to, that shows you the pride he takes. He’s such a huge part of everything we do.

Nick vs Alabama first time coming

Jan 11, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats looks on during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Every game that Nick gets to play, he’s going to feel more and more comfortable. I probably left him out there an extra four minutes in the second half late because I wanted him to continue getting conditioning, rhythm and confidence. Anybody we play, it changes who we are from an offensive standpoint. For us, we defended them pretty well for most of the game. They got hot down the stretch. They’re an explosive offensive team. Offensively, they’re such a great defensive team, we’re going to have to share the ball like we did tonight. You can’t force things against their defense.

Difference between Bama now and then

Jan 11, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Davonte Davis (4) dribbles during the first half as Alabama Crimson Tide guard Mark Sears (1) defends at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

They’ve been really good all year. You can look at games at Houston, they’ve been good the whole year. They’ve been one of the best teams in the country the entire year.

Makhi Mitchell's game

Jan 28, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks forward Makhi Mitchell (15) dunks against the Baylor Bears during the first half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

He was great. We’ve really worked with Makhi on reverse dribble handoffs out of the post. His throwing chases on the second side have been really good. I thought he was a big part of our offensive movement. There was a lot less standing than there has been at times this year. Tonight, I thought we cut harder without the ball than we had all year. Makhi was a huge part offensively using him as kind of a quarterback or trigger man.

Importance of last two wins

Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Eric Musselman reads to a call in the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

I think we’re in a good space, but as I tell you guys all the time, I told the locker room, Florida game is over. This game is over. We’re going to play the Alabama game. That game is over. You know, we put ourselves in a fairly good position based on how we played the last two games from a chemistry standpoint. I think that that’s where we’re at right now. We’re in a good spot, but we’re playign two of the best teams in the nation in soldout buildings last two games.

Brandon Miller and the talent Bama has

Jan 11, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Brandon Miller (24) dribbles by Arkansas Razorbacks guard Davonte Davis (4) during the first half at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Miller is one of the best catch-and-shoot 3-point guys in the lead. He’s got great size. Sears gave us a lot of problems with his dribble penetration. Quinerly does a great job of creating pace of play with them. Clowney is a guy that does a good job rim-rolling. They have so many different weapons. They have a player that’s a McDonald’s All-American that is back that was injured earlier in the year. There’s a reason they’re ranked where they are.

Tough playing at unbeaten Bama at home

Jan 11, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Mark Sears (1) leads a fast break during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

You look at our road games. Baylor is a hard place to win and we gave ourselves a chance to win. A&M, we played really well for a lot of that game. You want to compete. You want to try to minimize the crowd involvement in the game and you have to do that by defending. They’re a really hard team to defend. Got to get ready the next two days.

Story originally appeared on Razorbacks Wire