Game preview: No. 17 SDSU vs. No. 9 Arkansas

A look at Wednesday’s game between No. 17 San Diego State and No. 9 Arkansas for third place at the Maui Invitational:

Site/time: Lahaina Civic Center, Maui/7 p.m. PST

On the air: ESPN2; 760-AM

Records: Both teams are 4-1

Series history: Arkansas leads 2-0 but both games were in the 1980s and both in Fayetteville, most recently a 76-64 decision in 1986.

Aztecs update: They have 21 hours to salve their wounds from an 87-70 loss against No. 14 Arizona and step on the court again, this time against a team ranked even higher. It is for third place in the Maui Invitational, but the real motivation is not to leave the islands 1-2. “I said, ‘Come on, this is college basketball, how much fun is this?’” coach Brian Dutcher said. “We can’t get too down on ourselves. We’re playing college basketball in Maui. We have to put this behind us, or we’ll have no chance to play (Wednesday).” One alarming statistic was Arizona shooting 58.6 percent, the highest against the vaunted Aztecs defense in six seasons and 145 games (since UNLV also was 34 of 58 in 2018). Another: four assists, their fewest in eight seasons and 229 games (since three against West Virginia in a 22-point loss in the 2015 Las Vegas Invitational). Said Darrion Trammell, who had 21 shots but was 1 of 7 behind the arc: “They were just trying to force us as guards to make plays, and they were kind of taking away our passing angles.” SDSU’s most consistent player in Maui has been Oakland transfer Micah Parrish. He has scored 15 and 10 points off the bench while shooting 66.7 percent (5 of 10 on 3s) and grabbing nine rebounds. The Aztecs slipped six spots in Kenpom to 19. The computer metric predicts a 72-71 win by Arkansas, which is 11th.

Razorbacks update: They haven’t played the Aztecs since 1986, but coach Eric Musselman has during his four seasons at Nevada. Musselman, a USD alum, had a conference record of 54-18 in four seasons with the Wolf Pack but was only 3-7 against SDSU (0-3 at Viejas Arena). Four of those losses were with ranked Nevada teams, including a 65-57 decision in 2019 at No. 6. He’s back in the top 10 with this Arkansas team, which looks nothing like the last two that reached the Elite Eight. Davonte Davis is the only returning rotation player, joined by five transfers and a recruiting class ranked as high as No. 2 nationally. Davis starts with two transfers (Wichita State’s Ricky Council IV and Rhode Island’s Makhi Mitchell) and two freshmen (Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh). Missouri transfer Trevon Brazile (12.0 points, 7.6 rebounds) gets starter’s minutes off the bench. Council is averaging 19.0 points, but the big revelation has been the 6-7 Black (14.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.6 steals). The prize of the recruiting class, 6-5 guard Nick Smith Jr., hasn’t played yet with a knee injury, but he’s enough of a prospect (No. 1 by 247Sports) that he was a preseason all-conference selection in the SEC. The Razorbacks forced 17 turnovers in the semis against No. 10 Creighton but lost 90-87 after the Bluejays shot 58.5 percent. Musselman might have the biggest staff in college basketball at 12, and that’s not including the seven graduate assistants.

Next up: UC Irvine at Viejas Arena on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1)

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