TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Junior Ricky Council IV scored 26 points and freshman Nick Smith Jr. had 21 in No. 9 Arkansas’ 88-78 victory over Oklahoma on Saturday.
Arkansas, which improved to 9-1 on the season, trailed most of the first half, but led by three at the break and gradually pulled away from the Sooners throughout the second half.
“As good as they were playing and shooting, it was amazing, but as good as they were playing, we were still right there with them,” Council said, “so we knew once we started getting stops, we were going to pull away.”
The game was played in Tulsa, roughly the midpoint between Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Norman, Oklahoma. But Razorback fans turned out in numbers, which Council said “for sure” fueled the second half.
Oklahoma (7-3) had just three players in double figures, with senior Grant Sherfield leading the way with 23 points, including 3 of 6 3-pointers. He was followed by Milos Uzan with 15 points and Jalen Hill with 11.
“I feel like we were OK offensively, but just felt like our transition defense was bad,” Sherfield said.
The Sooners shot 57.1% from the field, and started the game 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.
“When we looked up at the 13-minute mark, I think theyhad only missed three or four shots. We just talked about how we needed to defend better,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “We tried to take away their perimeter 3-ball. We gave up some dribble-drives, but that was what we were willing to concede instead of giving up 3-point shots.”
Jordan Walsh added 12 points for the Razorbacks, who shot 59.3% from the field, and Mahki Mitchell had 10 points and six rebounds.
Arkansas went ahead by as many as 16 points with nine minutes left in regulation and held off OU’s late run that brought the Sooners within single digits.
With five seconds left in the game, Razorback fans started an “SEC” chant on the east side of the arena and Council drove through the lane and laid down a fervent dunk.
The Hogs handled the Sooners as a top-10 team should in the wake of forward Trevon Brazile’s season-ending torn ACL, which happened against UNC Greensboro earlier this week. Brazile was averaging 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game to start the season.
Council transferred from Wichita State and accounted for the Razorbacks’ 6-0 run late in the first half. Trailing by 5, Council hit a step back with his heels near the sideline to bring the Razorbacks within a bucket. Seconds later, he converted the tying layup while drawing a foul from Sam Godwin.
Council sank the free throw as Arkansas took the final lead with less than two minutes remaining until halftime.
“It always makes you feel good when you see one go in,” Council said. “Coach Muss was in my ear talking like ‘keep shooting it. Don’t stop.’”
Oklahoma hosts Central Arkansas next Saturday. Arkansas hosts Bradley next Saturday.