Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Hogs had plenty of minuses to go around
Tennessee guard Santiago Vescovi (25) moves through Arkansas guard Jalen Harris (5) and Arkansas forward Reggie Chaney (35) during an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 in Knoxville, Tenn. (Brianna Paciorka/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
It was inevitable.
The University of Arkansas was going to run off the road and into a ditch, and that’s what happened Tuesday night against the Tennessee Volunteers.
With 19:34 to play in the first half Desi Sills hit a three-pointer for a 3-0 lead, and the Razorbacks would never lead again, eventually falling 82-61.
It would have been worse, a lot worse, if the Hogs hadn’t made 26 free throws on 36 attempts.
They had 15 total field goals, including five three-pointers.
Head Coach Eric Musselman doesn’t like excuses, but it was a short turnaround, having lost at Missouri on Saturday and then traveling on Monday to Knoxville.
The Razorback bench is short and will remain that way even when Isaiah Joe returns from knee surgery.
His return, though, will be huge.
At the end of an official NCAA box score every player has a plus/minus total which is determined by how many points the team scores while that player is on the court.
All but two Hogs had minus scores. Ty Stevens had a plus-1 for playing 35 seconds, and Reggie Chaney also had a plus-1 in 20 minutes.
All but one of Tennessee’s players had plus numbers, and the one with a minus played 35 seconds.
Arkansas’ worst plus/minus score was a minus-21, while the Vols’ John Fulkerson had a plus-22 and Jordan Bowden a plus-20.
So in addition to being leg weary and not having much of a rotation the Hogs played poorly.
It was inevitable.
The Razorbacks are in a slump.
They have lost six of their last seven SEC games, and the light at the end of the tunnel could be a train.
Saturday’s noon tip against Mississippi State is sold out, and that could help, but the Hogs lost to the Bulldogs 77-70 earlier. The Dogs should be in a really bad mood after losing to Ole Miss on Tuesday night.
The Hogs follow that up with a trip to Florida who is in a dogfight with MSU, Alabama and Arkansas for the fourth and most likely final NCAA Tournament spot.
Arkansas slipped to No. 43 in the NCAA NET rankings, Alabama is No. 40, Florida is No. 44 and MSU is 48.
A loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday could leave the Razorbacks with a huge mountain to climb to get into March Madness.
Tennessee used the same game plan that every team has used who beat the Hogs.
They went inside and used their size advantage to get more rebounds and score.
The Vols had 40 points in the paint; Arkansas had 16.
Musselman is a great coach and could become the GOAT if he could coach his players into being 3 or 4 inches taller.
A glaring statistic was Tennessee had 17 assists, while Arkansas had six. Chaney and Mason Jones led the way with two each.
Jones, of course, didn’t start and the reason, according to Musselman, was they were looking for some pop off the bench.
Jones, one of the best players in the SEC, must not be comfortable coming off the bench.
He was 1-of-10 shooting including 1-of-5 on threes.
He averages 20 points a game.
When he starts he is the clear leader, but he and Musselman exchanged some words in the loss at Missouri, and as expected it isn’t being talked about. But leading scorers are apparently treated like all other players.
If the Hogs are going to rebound and make any kind of run down the stretch Jones needs to let his skills do all his talking to the head coach.
Not blaming him for the loss, it definitely was a team loss.
Anyone who watched the game knows that.
Also, they shouldn’t have been shocked by what they saw, an off night was inevitable for a team that has overachieved all season.
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