No. 13 Arkansas earned high marks at the Hall of Fame Classic from coach Eric Musselman for beating Kansas State and Cincinnati to win the event at Kansas City, Mo.
Now 5-0, the Razorbacks are back home Sunday to face Penn in a nonconference game at Fayetteville, Ark.
"We played two games against two really good teams," Musselman said. "I know Cincinnati really prides itself on its toughness and on its work on the backboards. So from a toughness standpoint, at least through this portion of the season, we're as tough as any team in the country."
Arkansas warmed up for the challenging tourney with a trio of home wins, although it was tested in the final three minutes of its Nov. 17 game with Northern Iowa after trailing by a point. The Razorbacks pulled away for a 93-80 victory.
Musselman wanted to see how his team would react to a neutral setting for the first time. The Razorbacks even had the crowd against them Monday night when they held off Kansas State 72-64.
He then wanted to see how they responded against a gritty Cincinnati team when the pressure was turned up in the second half. In every case, Musselman got the answer he sought. The Razorbacks were able to win in a half-court duel, were able to get multiple stops down the stretch and were able to win 50-50 balls while extending possessions.
"We didn't shoot the ball well in this tournament and we were able to come away with two wins because of our defense and our toughness," Musselman said. "And because of our rebounding."
With Arkansas nursing a one-point lead late against Cincinnati, Au'Diese Toney grabbed two offensive rebounds and forced the Bearcats into a fouling game. Arkansas made the necessary free throws to secure a 73-67 win.
Toney, a Pittsburgh transfer, scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds to win tournament MVP honors. The Razorbacks owned the glass 46-32.
Penn (3-5) has experienced a rough start to the season. The Quakers are coming off a 76-61 loss Tuesday at Towson in which they were dominated over the game's middle 20 minutes. They trailed by 29 points in the second half before a game-ending 15-1 run make the margin respectable.
Penn has spent most of November on the road. This will be its eighth road game, taking the team to challenges at Florida State and Utah State. And like all Ivy League schools, the Quakers didn't play last season due to the pandemic.
Jordan Dingle has been Penn's top weapon so far, averaging 19.6 points while leading the team in assists with 26. Jonah Charles is chipping in 11.3 points on the strength of 39.7 percent shooting from 3-point range.
This will be the first meeting between the two programs.
--Field Level Media