A momentous 9-0 start to the season for Arkansas has hit a snag as Justin Smith, the team’s second-leading rebounder and an impactful offseason transfer acquisition from Indiana, is expected to miss 3-6 weeks after undergoing right ankle arthroscopic debridement surgery this week.
Smith sustained the ankle injury Wednesday in the first half of the Razorbacks’ SEC-opener against Auburn. He did not play in the second half and was spotted on the bench in a boot.
“He’s sore. He’s really swollen,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said before Saturday’s game against No. 12 Missouri. “He’s been a great player for us. He’s a great defender, great rebounder.”
Smith has averaged 11.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game in his nine appearances for the Razorbacks this season, all career highs. He played a total of 12 minutes against Auburn before leaving the game, where he contributed four points, four rebounds and an assist.
Without Smith for the foreseeable future, another transfer addition — Vance Jackson — may see an uptick in production in his stead. Jackson, a senior from New Mexico, has appeared in every game for Arkansas this season, and his 6-foot-9 frame should give Arkansas a good physical presence at power forward. This season he’s averaged 4.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in a limited role.
Arkansas faces Missouri on Saturday at home as it looks to keep its unblemished record intact. Missouri was a 6.5 point underdog entering the game but the absence of Smith could be a tough one to overcome for the Razorbacks.