BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
FAYETTEVILLE – You might be surprised at what San Jose State head basketball coach Tim Miles looks back on first when reviewing Saturday’s 41-point loss at No. 11 Arkansas.
It’s not the Spartans (6-3) being outscored 59-23 after halftime or final margin of the Razorbacks’ 99-58 win at Bud Walton Arena.
It was not being ahead at intermission after taking a 31-29 lead on Omari Moore’s 3-pointer with 3:05 left in the first half only to fall behind 40-35 by the break.
“I was really disappointed that we didn’t have a lead at halftime,” Miles said. “I thought we had done enough to have a five- or six-point lead. To be down four or five points, I thought was a really bad sign.
“..So the final score doesn’t bother me as much as begin down five at halftime. For us, you only get a certain amount of opportunities – one or two in a game like this.”
Miles, who previously was the head coach at Colorado State and Nebraska, knew his team missed a chance to put pressure on Arkansas in the first half.
“The idea is to get ahead and see if they will do something uncharacteristic and we just weren’t able to do that,” Miles said. “We weren’t able to capitalize on our opportunities late in that first half.
“That’s because of the quality of their talent and what (Arkansas head) Coach (Eric) Musselman is doing. It really is an impressive team.”
Miles believes this Arkansas team is as good if not better than last season’s Elite Eight one.
“I watched them last year in the Elite Eight and they look as good or better,” Miles said.
That’s especially since Arkansas is such a young team.
“I was really disappointed at halftime that we didn’t capitalize at at the end of the first half to have a lead at halftime because you never know,” Miles said. “I think it puts a different type of mentality into your opponent.
“Instead they came out of the locker room roaring.”
Indeed Arkansas (7-1) went on a 17-4 run early in the second half to take control of the game and had pushed its lead to 70-48 on Anthony Black’s old-fashioned 3-point play with 10:30 left.
The largest lead of the game was the final margin attained when freshman guard Derrian Ford scored with 20 seconds left.
Trevon Brazile had a team-high 23 points and 5 rebounds for the Razorbacks while Ricky Council IV added 17 and Nick Smith 16 points, 5 assists and no turnovers.
Miles was thoroughly impressed with the 6-10 Brazile, who transferred from Missouri in the offseason.
Brazile was 8 of 9 from the field, 1 of 2 from 3-point range and 6 of 8 from the free throw line.
“When I look at that team and I see him, I’m like, ‘well, there’s a 14-year NBA player,’” Miles said. “He’s just really ideal. He can makes threes, he can bounce it a little bit and is super athletic.
“He’s just a difference maker. He’s big enough to play center and mobile enough to play the forward and that really puts a lot of strain on your defensive game plan.”
Smith, whose injury kept him out the first six games of the season, was scoreless coming off the bench Tuesday night while playing six minutes in his season debut.
He started on Saturday and played 24 minutes while going 6 of 14 from the field, 3 of 5 from 3-point range and 1 of 2 on free throw attempts.
“I saw him the first game and it looked like he hadn’t been on a basketball court in awhile,” Miles said. “I was hoping to have that Nick Smith, not the one I got.
“Once he gets his legs back under him, he is dynamic player and a real takeover guard. And then you put those other guys around him and it is a special team.”
Miles believes his team faced one of the nation’s best in the Razorbacks’ first this season with all 13 scholarship players available.
Arkansas shot 62.7 percent (32 of 59) from the field, 61.5 percent (8 of 13) from 3-point range and 17 of 21 from the free throw line during the game.
That includes making 22 of 29 field goal attempts, 5 of 7 3-pointers and 10 o 12 free throws in the second half.
“They almost scored 60 points in the second half and you can see they are an immensely talented team,” Miles said. “This was really Nick Smith’s first real game and you can see why he is so talked about in the NBA Draft.”
Miles ended up playing 14 players, getting in many of his reserves in latter half of the second stanza.
“When you get to a certain point and you are down 16 or 17 points and there is 10 or 12 minutes left, that was an opportunity for me to get some of the young ones in.
“It’s kind of we have our freshmen who can’t crack the line up and then we have our older guys.
“For me in a mid-major program, that is time to get these guys taste of what the next level looks like and that is what we tried to do.”
Moore’s 21 points led San Jose, who won just 8 games last season, while Sage Tolbert added 12 and 7-foot center and Ohio State transfer Ibrahim Diallo 10 points.
“Omari Moore is a real player, now,” Miles said. “Once we got the guys in right spots, he could beat you in a one-on-one match up. He can beat your 1-on-2 match up with a ball screen, too. And we needed him good tonight. That’s the way it goes.”
Photo by John D. James