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NCAAB: No. 13 Arkansas faces first-round challenge in Kansas City vs. Kansas State

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Eric Musselman is looking forward to seeing how No. 13 Arkansas plays in unfamiliar surroundings.

“We’ve got a whole new group of guys,” the Arkansas head coach said. “You become much tighter and closer and your bonding and chemistry starts really formulating once you get on an airplane together, once you get into a hotel together.

“You wake up, you eat breakfast, you have lunch, you have your pregame meal. Then after the game, you’re back eating with the guys. So, there’s a lot of bonding that’s going to take place. You have a different roommate on the road than you’re living with here.”

Musselman and the Razorbacks will try life away from Fayetteville Monday night when they meet Kansas State at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo.

Arkansas opened the season at home with three wins, although it had to go to the whip Wednesday night to subdue Northern Iowa 93-80. The Razorbacks trailed 78-77 with 3:13 left before scoring 15 of the game’s final 18 points.

Miami transfer Chris Lykes came off the bench to pump in a game-high 26 points, leading six players in double figures. JD Notae stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, nine assists and eight rebounds while committing only one turnover.

Notae has been the leader so far, averaging 21.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Lykes has pitched in 15.7 ppg off the bench, connecting on 6 of 10 3-pointers. Pittsburgh transfer Au’Diese Toney is contributing 11.3 ppg and 7.3 rebounds.

Arkansas has played fast and under control so far, averaging 84.3 ppg and putting together an assist-turnover ratio of nearly 2-1. In three games, it has committed just 29 turnovers.

“We held serve at home, did what we were supposed to do,” Musselman said. “We’re figuring out roles and rotations a little bit better than what we knew going into the season. Now we have two neutral-site games against two Power 5 opponents.”

The first of those is Kansas State, which is coming off a 79-64 win Wednesday night at home against Omaha. The Wildcats canned 52.8 percent from the field, including an impressive 9 of 19 on 3-pointers, and drew 18 assists.

Ish Massoud and Nijel Pack each scored 15 for Kansas State, which improved to 2-0 for the seventh time in coach Bruce Weber’s eight seasons.

“I’ve said since the beginning that we have good shooters,” he said. “If we get good shots, we’re going to make them, which we did. I believe we have good depth. We’re going to have to learn rotations, who we can play and with who.

“My only disappointment was the finish. Instead of winning by 15, it should’ve been 20 or 25.”

Pack is leading the Wildcats with 16.5 ppg, connecting on 7 of 11 3-pointers. Missouri transfer Mark Smith is adding 11.5 ppg and a team-high 7.0 rebounds. Kansas State has canned 47.6 percent of its field goals and is an impressive 18 of 41 on 3-pointers.

The Wildcats own an 8-3 record in the all-time series, but the teams haven’t played in 30 years.

The winner plays either No. 10 Illinois or Cincinnati on Tuesday night for the tournament title with the losers playing in the consolation game.

–Field Level Media

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