Tossed in Tulsa: Muss exits early as Hogs fall apart late

By: Bob Holt Bob Holt's Twitter account
Published: Sunday, December 12, 2021
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman (left) is escorted off the floor by Michael Musselman, his son and the Razorbacks' assistant director of basketball operations, during a game against Oklahoma on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Tulsa.
( Charlie Kaijo)
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman (left) is escorted off the floor by Michael Musselman, his son and the Razorbacks' assistant director of basketball operations, during a game against Oklahoma on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Tulsa.

TULSA — University of Arkansas men’s basketball Coach Eric Musselman wasn’t on the bench to see the end of the Razorbacks’ game against Oklahoma on Saturday.

Musselman drew two technical fouls from official Gerry Pollard with 3:30 left, resulting in an automatic ejection.

At that point, the Sooners were in control and finished off the No. 12 Razorbacks 88-66 at the BOK Center in front of an announced crowd of 12,746.

“I thought Oklahoma played an incredible game,” Musselman said.

It was the second time Musselman has been ejected in three seasons at Arkansas. He also drew two technicals in Missouri’s 81-68 victory over the Razorbacks at Walton Arena in Fayetteville last season.

Musselman was irate after Au’Diese Toney grabbed an offensive rebound and missed a put-back attempt while drawing contact from Tanner Groves and Jalen Hill.

Several Arkansas staff members held back Musselman — Ronnie Brewer in particular was forceful — and Michael Musselman escorted his father off the court.

“I’m not going to talk about the reffing,” Musselman said in his postgame interview with media. “You guys watched the game. I had my opinion, and I’ll leave it at that.”

Oklahoma (9-2) led for the final 39:16 of the game after Jordan Goldwire scored on a layup for the game’s first points.

The Sooners pushed their lead to 13-0 before Davonte Davis hit a three-pointer for the Razorbacks (9-1) at the 15:11 mark.

“They came out chirping with that ‘Woo Pig’ or whatever it is,” said Oklahoma senior guard Elijah Harkness, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds. “They were trying to get us out of our game, and I think it was big of us to show our maturity and not let that affect us.

“I think we did a great job of that, just staying true to ourselves and beating them at the end of the game.”

Oklahoma trailed 57-54 when JD Notae blocked a shot by Harkless.

Chris Lykes briefly controlled the ball for Arkansas, before Harkless got it back — though Lykes wasn’t credited with a turnover on the stat sheet — was fouled by Notae and hit two free throws.

“Chris’ turnover in the backcourt killed us,” Musselman said. “I thought that was a turning point in the game.”

Oklahoma bounced back from a 66-62 overtime loss at home to Butler on Tuesday night.

“The guys came out from the jump with an edge,” Sooners Coach Porter Moser said. “Sometimes you come out with an edge and you don’t [maintain] it. I thought our kids did for 40 minutes.”

Groves, a 6-10 senior transfer from Eastern Washington, scored 16 points. Senior guard Umoja Gibson added 12 points for the Sooners and Hill had 11.

The Sooners had a 36-28 rebounding edge. It was the first time the Razorbacks have been outrebounded this season.

“We got out-toughed today, to be quite honest,” Musselman said. “We didn’t rebound like we’re capable of. We turned the ball over too much.”

The Razorbacks, who had 14 turnovers and 10 assists, fell behind by as many as 15 points three times, including 35-20 in the first half and 50-35 early in the second half.

The first two times it happened, Arkansas pulled within 39-35 and 57-54.

But when Oklahoma made it 72-57 on Goldwire’s three-pointer with 4:02 left, there was no comeback for the Razorbacks.

Goldwire, a transfer from Duke who had 14 points and six assists, hit four free throws resulting from Musselman’s technical fouls to push Oklahoma’s lead to 76-57 as part of a 29-6 run.

“That’s a good team over there,” said Davis, a sophomore guard who led the Razorbacks with a career-high 26 points and hit 9 of 21 shots, including 4 of 8 three-pointers. “We knew it was going to be a tough game.

“We can’t do anything about it now. We just have to look at film, get back together and continue to work hard.”

Oklahoma hit 13 of 22 three-pointers — 8 of 13 in the first half.

“I thought they, from the get-go, they got hot because our guys didn’t respect them enough, I guess, as three-point shooters,” Musselman said. “When you get down [13-0] really quick, it’s hard to overcome it.

“They started shooting it with confidence.”

Harkless more than doubled his scoring average of 9.0 points coming into the game.

“I thought he was phenomenal,” Musselman said. “He just completely — through toughness and sheer desire — had an incredible game.”

The Razorbacks shot a season-low 34.4% (21 of 61), including 27.3% (9 of 33) in the second half.

Notae scored 13 points and shot 3 of 14. Stanley Umude added eight points and Jaylin Williams had seven.

“We’ll keep trying to diagram plays and stuff,” Musselman said. “But when you can’t even make 30% from the field in a half, you’re not going to win many games.”

Oklahoma shot 54.9% (28 of 51) and hit 19 of 22 free throws.

“We struggled to guard the three-point shot and we struggled to contain the dribble drive,” Musselman said. “We have guys stuck in the middle of no-man’s land.

“We have a lot of guys that have to improve as individual defenders, for sure.”


Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.