Postgame Thoughts: Ole Miss 84, Arkansas 67

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Saturday, January 19, 2019
Arkansas forward Gabe Osabuohien (22) shoots past Mississippi center Dominik Olejniczak (13) during the second half of the NCAA college basketball game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. Mississippi won 84-67. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Arkansas forward Gabe Osabuohien (22) shoots past Mississippi center Dominik Olejniczak (13) during the second half of the NCAA college basketball game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. Mississippi won 84-67. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

FAYETTEVILLE — For the first time in Mike Anderson's tenure at Arkansas, the Razorbacks have lost four consecutive games.

Anderson, Daniel Gafford and Mason Jones each spoke at length on Thursday about throwing the first punch in games rather than being hit in the mouth early and being down and out in the game's opening minutes. It happened Tuesday when Arkansas fell behind by 19 in the first half at Tennessee.

Saturday, it happened again and the Rebels, led by Terence Davis and Breein Tyree, dropped 46 first-half points - a season high - and ran away with a convincing win at home in front of an electric, sold-out crowd.

Davis flirted with a triple-double in the win, finishing with 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Tyree, who opened SEC play with 31 points at Vanderbilt, added a game-high 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting.

Bruce Stevens added 14 for the Rebels and forward Dominik Olejniczak pitched in 13 - all in the first half.

Part of the Razorbacks' first-half issues on the defensive end stemmed from doubling the Ole Miss ball handler after Olejniczak set high ball screens and slipped to the rim. Twice, Olejniczak finished at the rim, once through contact from Reggie Chaney. He scored the Rebels' first five points and somewhat set the tone in terms of physicality.

Davis and Tyree, alongside the 13 from Olejniczak, poured in 24 first-half points and Ole Miss scored at a 1.243 point per-possession clip, while the Razorbacks - 10th in the SEC in offensive efficiency entering Saturday - scored on just 17 of 37 possessions and turned the ball over eight times. Gabe Osabuohien was a surprise with seven points prior to halftime, tying him for the team lead in scoring with Daniel Gafford, who did the majority of his damage at the line.

After halftime, Jones, second in the SEC in scoring at nearly 20 points per game through two weeks, continued to be a nonfactor following a scoreless first half. He was sloppy with the ball at times, missed a pair of point-blank layups he's often gotten to fall this conference season and finished the day 1-of-10 from the floor, including misses on all six of his 3-point attempts.

It's the second time in five games Jones has missed nine of 10 shots in a game (Austin Peay). While he's been a great plus for Arkansas this season, he's also been fairly hit or miss.

Gafford was held to 10 points or less for the third time in five league games. He finished with nine points - tying a season low - and 10 rebounds to go with five turnovers. After finishing the LSU game with 14 buckets on 19 shots, Gafford took just 12 shots this week against Tennessee and the Rebels.

Gafford was a bit sloppy at Ole Miss, that much can't be argued. However, entry passes by teammates did not help matters.

Osabuohien and freshman shooting guard Keyshawn Embery-Simpson, who came into the game 2-of-17 from the floor and 1-of-12 from 3, were Arkansas' leading scorers - as well as Isaiah Joe. Osabuohien scored a career-high 13 points on 5-of-9 from the floor and Embery-Simpson poured in 16 - 12 in the second half. Those two helped the Razorbacks' reserves outscore their starters 35-32.

Osabuohien's game, more often than not, isn't aesthetically pleasing. Before Saturday, he was ninth on the team in minutes yet third in usage rate, and he played that way against the Rebels. His nine shots trailed only Joe and Jones, who took 11 and 10, respectively, and he turned the ball over four times. Osabuohien, though, was Arkansas' most active big in the loss, so he does deserve some credit for his fight. He had to step in fairly quickly for Reggie Chaney, who earned his second career start but had to sit with foul trouble. Chaney played only 12 minutes and scored four points.

Embery-Simpson was the offensive aggressor in the second half in 11 minutes. He knocked down 3 of 5 shots and was 2-of-4 from 3-point range. He was the lone Razorbacks player to reach double figures after halftime. Joe scored 11 points in the loss on 3-of-9 from deep.

The Razorbacks were ahead of schedule in terms of expectations early in the season largely because they were a solid defensive group. It allowed the offense to be pretty average but still be enough to win games. That won't work in the SEC with the abundance of quality guard play and talented big men.

Arkansas, over its last three games, has turned in its three worst performances of the season in terms of defensive efficiency. LSU, Tennessee and Ole Miss - granted, three of the best teams in the league - averaged 1.216 PPP in the last week.

Arkansas has to get back to what made it successful early in the season - defending, funneling the offense through Gafford and working inside-out and taking care of the basketball. The Razorbacks have turned the ball over on better than 23 percent of their possessions in three of the last four games. During its four-game losing streak, opponents have turned Arkansas' turnovers into 87 points.

Arkansas returns to Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday against rival Missouri. It'll be interesting to see what kind of crowd shows up to support this struggling team.

Looking ahead, things get no easier. Following Missouri at home, the Razorbacks will visit Texas Tech, which happens to be the No. 1 team in the country in defensive efficiency (82.7) as of Saturday.


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