Razorbacks' skid going wrong way

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, February 18, 2019
Arkansas Razorbacks guard Mason Jones (13) reacts during a basketball game, Saturday, February 16, 2019 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas Razorbacks guard Mason Jones (13) reacts during a basketball game, Saturday, February 16, 2019 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas and LSU basketball teams have been going in different directions since the Razorbacks upset the No. 19 Tigers 90-89 in the Maravich Assembly Center on Feb. 2.

The Razorbacks looked ready to get on a roll while LSU faced a challenging portion of its schedule with road games to Mississippi State, Kentucky and Georgia and a home game against Auburn.

Instead, it's Arkansas that has struggled while LSU has thrived.

Mississippi State won 77-67 at Walton Arena on Saturday night to extend the Razorbacks' losing streak to three games and drop them to 1-3 since they ended the Tigers' 18-game home winning streak.

LSU (21-4, 11-1) is tied with Tennessee for the SEC lead thanks to being 4-0 after the Arkansas loss, including a 73-71 victory over No. 5 Kentucky.

Arkansas' lone victory in its last four games was 69-66 at home over Vanderbilt -- which has lost 13 consecutive games and is 0-12 in SEC play -- and the Razorbacks needed a three-point basket from freshman guard Keyshawn Embery-Simpson with 14.8 seconds left to overcome a 66-64 lead by the Commodores.

The Razorbacks (14-11, 5-7), who won four consecutive SEC games before losing at South Carolina 77-65 on Feb. 9, will try to get back on track when they play at Auburn (17-8, 6-6) on Wednesday night.

"This locker room is definitely going to be able to recover," said sophomore guard Mason Jones, who led Arkansas with 30 points against Mississippi State. "We've been on a losing streak before. To be on a losing streak this late in the year, it's kind of hard, but our guys are fighters.

"We're going to wake up and live another day and prepare our bodies and get ready for Auburn. We know we're still chasing for something, so as long as we keep a positive attitude we're going to be good."

Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson was asked about holding his team together.

"You're still in the hunt for something and you've also got another season, which is the postseason," Anderson said, referring to the SEC Tournament. "So there is a lot of basketball left."

The Razorbacks normally could be counted on to dominate at home, but that hasn't been the case this season.

Arkansas is 10-5 in Walton Arena -- including 3-3 in SEC games with losses to Florida and LSU in overtime in addition to Mississippi State -- with home games remaining against Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Alabama.

The Razorbacks hadn't lost more than four home games in Anderson's previous seven seasons.

Including Anderson's time at Alabama-Birmingham (51-9), Missouri (79-11) and Arkansas (110-17), he came into this season with a 240-37 home record.

"That's difficult, as it's something that I'm not used to -- and won't ever get used to," Anderson said of the home losses. "We're not going to get used to it."

Mississippi State (18-7, 6-6) used a 23-1 run in the second half to erase a 40-32 Arkansas lead and move ahead 55-41 to take control the game.

"I'm just disappointed," Anderson said. "I thought we had some more efficient minutes in us."

While Jones matched his career-high with 30 points -- he also had 30 against Florida -- no other Razorback scored more than eight points against Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs held 6-11 sophomore Daniel Gafford to a season-low eight points.

Gafford, who came into the game averaging 16.9 points, also scored eight points at South Carolina.

Going against Mississippi State's 6-11 Abdul Ado, 6-10 Aric Holman and 6-9 Reggie Perry, Gafford shot 2 of 7 from the field.

"He just missed some," Anderson said. "He's human. He's been so good for us."

Gafford goes into every game as the focal point of the opponent's scouting report and is constantly double-teamed and sometimes triple-teamed.

"Maybe that's wearing on him," Anderson said. "You get pounded, pounded, pounded, the wear and tear sometimes can have an effect.

"I thought sometimes we tried to go to to him too much, and that's where some of those turnovers took place. But I think he's giving us everything he's got."

Arkansas had a season-high 20 turnovers that Mississippi State converted into 27 points.

"That's what we normally do to people," Anderson said. "They're a good defensive team, but I thought we helped them in that category."

Jones said he's not thinking about the rest of the season beyond the next game at Auburn.

"We have to take one game at a time," he said. "You never know what could happen. We could go on a winning streak, we could get hot."

Sports on 02/18/2019

UP NEXT

Arkansas men at Auburn

WHEN 7:30 p.m. Central, Wednesday

WHERE Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.

RECORDS Arkansas 14-11, 5-7 SEC; Auburn 17-8, 6-6

SERIES Arkansas leads 34-18.

TELEVISION SEC Network

RADIO Razorback Sports Network

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