Analyzing Arkansas' 99-89 loss at Georgia

By: Scottie Bordelon Scottie Bordelon's Twitter account
Published: Saturday, February 29, 2020
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman speaks with his staff during the team's NCAA college basketball game against Georgia in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman speaks with his staff during the team's NCAA college basketball game against Georgia in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)

Arkansas opened and closed the month of February by spotting an SEC team a double-digit lead on its home floor.

The Razorbacks battled back from a 12-0 deficit at Alabama to drop the Crimson Tide 82-78 on Feb. 1, but there was no epic comeback Saturday at Georgia. For Arkansas, which allowed the Bulldogs to grab a 14-0 lead less than four minutes in, defensive stops were too few and far between for that to happen.

The Razorbacks, winners of their previous two games since Isaiah Joe's return from knee surgery, were very much back in the NCAA Tournament conversation. That may not be the case any longer after this loss, Arkansas' 10th in 16 SEC games.

Eric Musselman's group was as lackluster on the defensive end as it has been all season. In all, six Georgia players finished with 10 or more points, led by potential No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards' 26. Rayshaun Hammonds added 22 points, too, his most in an SEC game this season.

What I found to be the difference, though, was reserve guard Tyree Crump's 14 points, which came after halftime. He hit 5 of his 6 shots and 4 of 5 from 3-point range in the second half, providing the Bulldogs a perimeter jumper whenever they needed it.

Crump had scored just 13 points in Georgia's previous three games.

"I mean, we knew he was a great shooter," Musselman said of Crump in his postgame radio interview. "Open look after open look late game."

According to KenPom analytics, Arkansas posted a defensive efficiency rating of 134.0, by far its worst of the season. That figure is also the second worst of Musselman's college coaching career behind only a loss at Saint Mary's to open the 2016-17 season (137.8).

Not only did the Razorbacks allow the Bulldogs to shoot 64 percent inside the arc and score 50 paint points, Georgia became the first team this season to hit 10 or more 3s against Arkansas. Saturday marked only the sixth time this season coach Tom Crean's club hit double-digit 3s.

Edwards and Hammonds each knocked down three in the win. Edwards took plenty of tough, contested shots, but he made most of them. I came away from this fairly amazed that he didn't attack the rim more, especially with the frame he has at 6-5, 225. Six of his eight buckets came on jumpshots. Have to give him credit there.

"I was really impressed with Edwards," Musselman said. "He was phenomenal. For a freshman to draw fouls ... I love how he rebounded the basketball. I thought he just took over the game. I mean, they can really score the ball, but you can't go on the road and spot a team 14-0. Consistency becomes something that's really important for a college basketball team.

"We got off to a great start at home (on Wednesday), and then got off to a horrendous start tonight. Total inconsistency to start the last two basketball games, and we haven't played well on the road now for three straight games."

Offensively for Arkansas, the usual suspects were great. Mason Jones, who was fairly non-existent in the first half and scored four points, added 22 after halftime to lead Arkansas. He was really terrific in the second half, hitting 8 of his 11 shots to go with a pair of assists.

At one point in the game, with the Razorbacks within one score, Jones was matched up with Edwards on the perimeter. That was awesome to watch. Jones got the best of Edwards once, scoring through contact at the rim. Jones then gestured, like Desi Sills did last Saturday to Missouri's Kobe Brown, that Edwards was too little.

Jones was one of three Razorbacks players who was not a net negative in the loss. The teams were all square at 83 when Jones was on the floor, but Arkansas got outscored 16-6 in the three minutes, 17 seconds he sat. That is troublesome.

Isaiah Joe added 26 points in the loss, his third consecutive game with 20-plus since his return to the lineup. He hit 4 of 10 3-point attempts and knocked down 4 of 8 looks inside the arc.

Sills, who entered Saturday averaging just more than nine points in Arkansas' 10 true road games, scored a career-high 21 on 8 of 13 shooting and 3 of 5 from distance. The sophomore was fantastic in the early going in keeping the Razorbacks afloat offensively.

He finished with a team-high six rebounds, too, but was a minus-10 in the game - same as Joe.

No other Razorbacks player finished with more than six points. Adrio Bailey pitched in six in 21 minutes, but fouled out for the third straight game and sixth time in SEC play. He is now committing better than seven fouls per 40 minutes played in conference games, per KenPom. Musselman needs him on the floor badly at this point.

Jimmy Whitt and Jalen Harris scored five points apiece on a combined 3 of 11 shooting. Whitt handed out a season-high six assists, giving him 10 in Arkansas' last two games to end the month.

Moving forward, the Razorbacks have a lot of work to do - a lot - to get into the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas was one of four teams among Joe Lunardi's Next Four Out entering the day. Losing to a mediocre team won't help your cause.

Saturday was not the ideal time to put forth your worst defensive effort of the season.

LSU, the SEC's top offense in league-only games, comes to Fayetteville on Wednesday and has to be itching to face the defense the Razorbacks floored at Georgia. Right now, Arkansas is just hoping to avoid playing on the first day of the SEC Tournament in two weeks.

Lets hope Musselman's squad is up for a couple of fights this week, because that is what they're in for with the Tigers and Texas A&M to close the regular season.


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