Strong start not enough as men's basketball falls at Arkansas in exhibition

Caleb Hodnett goes up for a block in the first half at Arkansas (photo courtesy of Mike Cawood, Arkansas Athletic Communications)
Caleb Hodnett goes up for a block in the first half at Arkansas (photo courtesy of Mike Cawood, Arkansas Athletic Communications)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. --- A strong first half performance by the Tusculum men's basketball team wasn't enough as the Arkansas Razorbacks scored 66 second half points en route to a 96-47 exhibition win over the Pioneers in front of 13,376 fans at Bud Walton Arena Friday night.

Tusculum held an early eight-point lead and hung tough with the Division I Razorbacks trailing 30-24 at halftime.  But Arkansas would score the first 14 points of the second half and outscored the D-II Pioneers 66-23 in the final 20 minutes.

Five Arkansas players scored in double-figures led by Isaiah Joe's 18 points which including five 3-pointers.  Reggie Chaney recorded 13 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while Daniel Gafford, Jalen Harris and Keyshawn Embery-Simpson posted 13 markers each.

Tusculum senior Donovan Donaldson led the Pioneers with 11 points off the bench, going 5-of-10 and tallied a team-best three steals.  Eleven different TU players found their way into the scoring column including 6 points by Trenton Gibson and five points from Chad Emmons.

The Pioneers put an early scare into Arkansas as TU jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first four minutes thanks to an Austin Hall three pointer, a three-point by Tariq Jenkins and a tip-in from Brandon Mitchell.

The Hogs responded with seven straight points including four by Gabe Osabuohien to trim the TU lead to 8-7 with 14:03 remaining in the half.  Donaldson and Emmons followed with a basket each to increase the Tusculum advantage to 12-7 with 11:48 left in the first half.

The Razorbacks erupted for an 11-0 run over the next 2:31, capped off by a Jalen Harris tip-in as Arkansas led 18-12 with under 10 minutes remaining in the half.

Tusculum cut the deficit to four at 19-15 and again at 22-18 following a Dillon Smith trey at the 7:31 mark.  UA's Isiah Joe nailed a triple of his own to push lead to 25-18, but four straight points from TU's Trenton Gibson pulled the Pioneers to within 25-22 with 6:05 left.

The defenses clamped down over the next three minutes of both teams went scoreless before the Hogs scored five straight to lead 30-22 with 1:53 to go in the period.  Donaldson would come up with a steal and a layup with 31 seconds left as the Pioneers trailed 30-24 at halftime.

The Razorbacks scored the first 14 points en route to outscoring the Pioneers by a 66-23 margin as the hosts prevailed 96-47.

After being limited to 36 percent shooting in the first half, Arkansas responded by shooting 22-of-33 in the second period for 66.7 percent and finish the game firing at a 52.5 percent clip.  TU would finish the game shooting 26.9 percent including 9-of-38 in the second half.

The Pioneers were out-rebounded 53-41, but Tusculum would own a 19-16 advantage on the offensive boards for the game.  Tusculum committed 29 turnovers while forcing the Razorbacks into 20 miscues.   The TU trio of Cam King, Caleb Hodnett and Brandon Mitchell finished with six rebounds each for the Pioneers.

TU was whistled for 29 fouls as the Razorbacks made 21 of their 39 free throws (53.8%).  Tusculum went 9-of-19 at the charity stripe (47.4%) as Arkansas committed 19 fouls on the night.

Tusculum continues its strong exhibition slate on Wednesday as the Pioneers travel to sixth-ranked Tennessee for a 7 p.m. contest against the Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena.