Not a better half: Hogs feckless after falling behind 22-1 in loss to Auburn

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2019
Auburn forward Chuma Okeke, right, pressures Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Julie Bennett)
Auburn forward Chuma Okeke, right, pressures Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Julie Bennett)

AUBURN, Ala. -- The University of Arkansas basketball team started Wednesday night's game at Auburn the same way the Razorbacks did the second half against Mississippi State on Saturday.

In a word -- horribly.

Auburn cruised to a 79-56 victory over Arkansas before an announced crowd of 7,493 at Auburn Arena when the Tigers jumped out to a 22-1 lead after Samir Doughty's three-point basket with 13:28 left in the first half.

"I didn't believe it," Tigers senior guard Malik Dunbar said.

At that point, the Razorbacks were 0 of 8 from the field and had 4 turnovers.

In Mississippi State's 77-67 victory over Arkansas in Walton Arena, the Bulldogs opened the second half by outscoring the Razorbacks 23-3 -- with a 21-3 run -- as the home team missed its first 14 shots and had 5 turnovers.

Despite the similar runs by opponents in back-to-back games, Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said he didn't feel there was a carryover.

"I just thought [Auburn] made shots and we didn't defend," Anderson said. "When you don't defend, that's what happens."

Auburn (18-8, 7-6 SEC) handed Arkansas (14-12, 5-8) its fourth consecutive loss. That matches the Razorbacks' longest losing streak in Anderson's eight seasons as coach. They also lost four consecutive games earlier this season.

Things got out of hand so quickly against Auburn that Anderson called a timeout with 16:09 left in the first half -- rather than wait for the television break -- with the Tigers leading 14-1.

It didn't help as Auburn scored the next eight points.

"We've obviously had a lot of tough losses this season, but taking one like that -- it hit us hard," said freshman guard Isaiah Joe, who led the Razorbacks with 14 points. "We've just got to bounce back. We can't put our heads down now and give up. We've got to keep going."

Senior guard Bryce Brown led the Tigers with 18 points and hit 5 of 8 three-pointers.

Auburn junior forward Anfernee McLemore scored 13 points, junior forward Chuma Okeke scored 11, and junior guard Jared Harper had 10.

Razorbacks sophomore forward Daniel Gafford had 10 points and eight rebounds. He hit 4 of 5 shots and 2 of 5 free throws.

Gafford didn't attempt his first shot until he hit a layup with 10:06 left in the first half to cut Arkansas' deficit to 26-7. His lone miss came on a dunk attempt with 4:01 left in the game, when he didn't even hit the rim and sent the ball into the Auburn student section.

"I mean, you think about it," Anderson said. "Dan had a wide-open dunk and he misses the dunk. That's the kind of night it was."

Auburn did a good job of keeping the ball from Gafford by fronting him, then collapsing.

"Just make it difficult for him, make it hard for him to get a shot off," McLemore said of the game plan against Gafford. "Beat him to the spot and make sure he's not living in the paint the whole time."

Some of the Razorbacks' 15 turnovers came when they tried to get the ball inside to Gafford.

"It was very tough to try and get him the ball," Joe said. "They fronted him, and they had a lot of help on the back side.

"On top of that, we couldn't knock down shots, so it was hard to spread them out. I feel like if we could have hit our open shots, we could hit Daniel a lot more."

Joe and sophomore guard Mason Jones -- the Razorbacks' top perimeter shooters -- finished a combined 6 of 27 from the field, including 4 of 20 on three-pointers. Joe shot 5 of 18 and 4 of 14 . Jones shot 1 of 9 and 0 of 6.

The Razorbacks shot 4 of 26 on three-pointers and finished at 32.8 percent (19 of 58) from the field.

"We couldn't make any shots," Anderson said. "Against a team like Auburn, you can't do that."

Auburn, which came into the game leading the SEC in three-point baskets (274) and attempts (735), buried Arkansas from beyond the arc.

The Tigers' first four baskets were three-pointers by McLemore, Dunbar, Okeke and Brown as they took a 12-1 lead.

"We shoot a lot of threes, and hopefully we make a lot," McLemore said. "I feel like anybody on the court can make a three, one through five, honestly."

By the time the Tigers pushed their lead to 22-1, they were 8 of 12 from the field, including 6 of 8 on three-pointers.

Auburn hit 17 of 33 three-pointers -- the most made threes in an SEC game this season -- and shot 48.1 percent from the field (26 of 54).

"It was good tonight, but I thought they were open shots," Tigers Coach Bruce Pearl said. "We were able to work the ball around and get open shots.

"If we would have turned it over less, we would have made more than 17. Arkansas will turn you over now."

The Tigers had 20 turnovers, their second most after 25 in a 78-71 loss at North Carolina State.

"We made them turn it over 20 times, but I don't think we took advantage of that," Anderson said.

Arkansas had five fewer turnovers, but Auburn outscored the Razorbacks 24-18 in points off turnovers.

"It kind of snowballed," Anderson said of the Tigers' hot start. "We know they're a terrific three-point shooting team, and our defense didn't do a good job of getting out there and finding their shooters."

Arkansas' only point while falling behind 22-1 came when Jalen Harris hit 1 of 2 free throws with 17:54 left in the half.

The Razorbacks finally scored their first basket when Gabe Osabuohien scored on a drive with 12:56 left in the half.

"It was one of those games where they couldn't miss shots, and we couldn't get any stops or put the ball in the hole," Joe said. "We can have some tough nights, but it can't go to that extent where it's 22-1, because once you get down that far, it's hard to come back."

Game sketch

RECORDS Arkansas 14-12, 5-8 SEC; Au-burn 18-8, 7-6

STARS Auburn guard Bryce Brown (18 points, 5 of 8 three-pointers), forward An-fernee McLemore (13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks)

KEY STATS Auburn hit 17 of 33 three-point shots (51.5 percent) to Arkansas’ 4 of 26 (15.4 percent).

UP NEXT The Razorbacks host Texas A&M on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Sports on 02/21/2019


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