Brazile’s performance elevates Hogs at the Maui Invitational

FAYETTEVILLE — In Trevon Brazile’s first season at the University of Arkansas following his transfer from Missouri, the 6-10 sophomore has tipped national attention for highlight dunks.

But it was Brazil’s jump on the court at the Lahaina (Hawaii) Civic Center Wednesday night that helped the No. 9 Razorbacks beat No. 17 San Diego State 78-74 in overtime in the game for Maui’s third-place finish Invitation.

The Aztecs led 67-65 by 13 seconds after Arkansas freshman point guard Anthony Black made two free throws.

San Diego State junior guard Lamont Bradley got the inbounds pass and was caught by Brazile and Black.

When Bradley lost the ball, Brazile dived on it, made a steal and called a timeout with 7.5 seconds left.

“I’m a little surprised [Bradley] didn’t call a timeout,” Brazile said in a post-game press conference. “He was in a bad situation. He fumbled with the ball.

“I’m surprised his coach didn’t take a break. … We have the ball. Kamani [Johnson] made a big game, and then we went from there.

Johnson, a senior striker, had a tip-in on the buzzer after a missed driving attempt by Black to level the score at 67-67 and send the game into overtime.

Darrion Trammell’s three-pointer gave San Diego State a 70-69 lead in overtime, but Ricky Council’s jumper put Arkansas ahead to stay 71-70 with 3:39 in overtime.

Johnson, who had a rebound basket to give the Razorbacks a 75-73 lead, clinched the win by hitting two free throws with 3.7 seconds left for the final 78-74 lead and then the inbounds pass the Aztec stole.

Arkansas (5-1) bounced back from being as much as 13 points behind in the first half and 45-34 with 14:27 in regulation.

“I mean, you always worry when you’re down double digits,” said Brazile, who had 20 points and nine rebounds. “But I just kept pushing the guys together and telling them, ‘We’ve got to keep fighting, we’ve got to keep at it.’

“It’s an older team. We have prepared intensively for them. We were well prepared but we knew it was going to be a fight.”

Council, a junior guard who played every 40 minutes in No. 10 Creighton’s 90-87 win over Arkansas on Tuesday night, missed his first seven shots against San Diego State — including a dunk attempt.

“I was about to pull him out and try to give him a break,” Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said on the Arkansas Postgame radio show. “But he said, ‘Just give me one more chance, Coach. I am still here. My legs are fine.’ ”

Council, who scored 15 points and 24 against Creighton in Arkansas’ 80-54 win over Louisville Monday in the first round of the Maui Invitational, finally got his first shot against San Diego State in a three-point game, 14-03 the Razorbacks within 45-37 to start their rally.

Rat finished with 19 points in 41 minutes, hitting 6 of 19 shots and 7 of 11 free throws.

Black had 15 points after combining for 52 against Louisville and Creighton. His 22.3 scoring average led the Maui Invitational and he was named to the All-Tournament Team.

“I thought in the first half it looked like we didn’t have the energy that we usually play with,” Musselman said in a press conference after the game. “San Diego State, with their veterans and how well trained they are, I thought in the first half it looked like they were a team that knew their roles a little bit better. We’re still trying to figure out who we are.

“We thought someone from the bench who might not have played [Tuesday night] could have an impact and obviously Kamani Johnson was absolutely incredible in the last 19 minutes of the game.

Johnson, who did not play in the tournament until he came on as a substitute against San Diego State at 14:25 in regular play, finished the tournament with 7 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals.

“It just shows what a strong team we are,” Johnson said of the comeback on Arkansas’ radio show. “It’s an older team, so Coach said it’s going to be a Creighton-like game.

“We prepared for it, we came down, but that just showed me that our young people are not going to give up. Our entire team will not give up. That will certainly help us to go into March.”

San Diego State opened the tournament with an 88-77 win over Ohio State, losing to No. 14 Arizona 87-70 to reach a matchup with Arkansas.

“That was a hell of a basketball game,” Aztec coach Brian Dutcher said at a news conference. “Two tired-legged teams finding a way to stamp it out.

“It was exciting. Of course we would have wished we had closed better.”

Dutcher said he warned Bradley before his critical turnover that the Aztecs would have a time-out if needed and would keep the ball even in a jump ball situation.

“So if he was tied up, maybe he could have held it and tried to get a jump ball,” Dutcher said. “I could have maybe come to the sidelines and taken a break.

“I thought he was probably going to be fouled or at worst get a tied ball. They ended up making a play and securing the ball. So that’s a credit to the Arkansas press in the end.

“That length and athleticism paid off for her.”

Brazile said the Razorbacks are focused on bringing back offense and defense game after game.

“Coach always tells us, ‘We live and die by every possession,'” Brazile said. “So in the last two, three minutes of regulation, we lived and died on every possession.”

San Diego State led for 33:47 of the game to 8:52 for Arkansas. There were 10 lead changes and five draws.

“Look, the San Diego State coaching staff did an incredible job in my opinion,” said Musselman, who as Nevada coach had a 3-8 record against the Aztecs in the Mountain West games, at the press conference after the game Game. “They controlled the game most of the time. We’ve done just enough to hang around.”

Musselman said the game reminded him of his days as NBA head coach at Golden State and Sacramento.

“It’s not often that a game has an NBA feel to it, but that’s how a lot of NBA games end,” he said. “You just keep talking to your team about ‘Hold on, hang on.’ At some point you try to make two or three stops in a row.”

Arkansas’ biggest stop was Brazile, who came down for a steal instead of a dunk all the way up for a change.