Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Analyzing Arkansas' 72-59 loss at Auburn
Arkansas guard Jordan Walsh tips in a rebound during the first half of a game against Auburn on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Frustration was the central theme during the post-game interviews with Arkansas guard Anthony Black and fourth-year coach Eric Musselman on Saturday night after the No. 13 Razorbacks’ 72-59 loss at No. 22 Auburn.
For the second time in as many SEC road games, Arkansas struggled mightily on the offensive end. And defensively, the Razorbacks, who entered the weekend No. 5 in the country from an efficiency standpoint, allowed Tigers guards Wendell Green and Allen Flanigan to score 37 combined points.
Arkansas dropped to 12-3 overall and 1-2 in league games ahead of Wednesday’s home matchup against Alabama, which could jump into the top five of The Associated Press Top 25 poll on Monday after a pair of blowout wins this week.
Black, the Razorbacks’ 6-7 freshman guard, exhibited Saturday the same take-over-the-offense mentality he had for stretches while Arkansas was at the Maui Invitational. He finished with a game-high 23 points at Auburn.
Black knocked down 5 of 11 shots and 13 of 16 attempts at the free-throw line behind 7 drawn fouls. The freshman scored 13 of the Razorbacks’ first 16 points after halftime.
Arkansas’ offensive frustrations were plenty. The lack of complementary play around Black was glaring, particularly from a scoring perspective, and the Razorbacks failed to convert at a sufficient rate at any level of the floor.
More from WholeHogSports: Musselman, Black discuss Razorbacks' loss at Auburn | Recap: Hogs fall at Auburn despite Black's 23-point effort
Beyond the arc, Arkansas hit just 2 of 16 attempts. The 2 threes made matched a season low.
At the free-throw line, the Razorbacks were 19 of 32, and 6 of 16 outside of Black. They are now shooting 61.5% at the line through three SEC games.
And, last but not least, Arkansas was 16 of 33 in the painted area. StatBroadcast data shows Musselman’s group was 7 of 22 on lay-up attempts and scored only 8 second-chance points after grabbing 17 offensive rebounds.
Tigers forward Johni Broome, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds, contributed to some of the issues around the rim with 6 blocks.
“Those extra possessions aren’t guaranteed, so, first of all, we’ve got to say good job to the bigs for getting those extra chances. But we’ve got to finish them,” Black said. “I think we really beat ourselves tonight. I mean, Auburn is a solid team, but I think we really beat ourselves, to be honest.”
Beyond Black, Wichita State transfer Ricky Council was the only Razorback to score in double figures. He added 14 points, but on 5 of 15 from the floor, including 3 of 9 on two-point attempts.
For Council, it was another night in the SEC in which he lacked efficiency. In three conference games against LSU, Missouri and Auburn, he has hit 11 of 31 looks inside the arc and 5 of 18 three-point attempts.
Council led Arkansas with nine first-half points, but there was no big individual second-half push like he provided Wednesday against Missouri. Averaging 10.8 second-half points through 14 games, per CBB Analytics, he added 5 points on 2 of 8 from the floor Saturday.
“We’re playing against better talent,” Musselman said when asked about Council’s offense of late. “You’re going up against some length and some of the best defensive teams in the country. You’ve got to move without the ball and figure out how to score across the board.
“We’re not getting as many basket cuts as we have in the past. We’re doing the same drills. You’ve got to figure out when your shot is not falling how to get some easy baskets off of reading the defense.”
Given Arkansas shot 33.9% as a team, more players than just Council found it difficult to fall into a rhythm on offense. Freshman wing Jordan Walsh finished 2 of 10 shooting, guard Davonte Davis was 1 of 5, and forward Jalen Graham was 2 of 6 from the floor and 1 of 5 at the line.
More from WholeHogSports: South Florida transfer Antonio Grier announces he will be a Razorback
Walsh’s and forward Makhi Mitchell’s six points were tied for third most on the team. Black noted that Arkansas was simply far too stagnant against the Tigers’ zone defense, which had previously been played three possessions all season.
“Guys working relentlessly on their game outside of practice, that’s got to improve, for sure,” Musselman said. “We have some guys that need to share the basketball a little bit more from an offensive standpoint, because we are struggling to score the ball. Everybody knows it.
“The three-point shooting, you’re not just going to miraculously wake up and all of a sudden become a great three-point shooting team, so you’ve got to figure out other ways to try to put points on the board.”
On the other end, Arkansas, for the most part, was unable to disrupt or bother Auburn. The Tigers committed eight turnovers and posted a turnover rate of 11.9%, which is the lowest by a Razorbacks opponent this season, per KenPom data.
The site also shows Arkansas is 12th in the SEC in league games in defensive turnover rate. The Razorbacks are forcing 9.3 turnovers per game in conference play.
“The defensive game plan has not changed other than the execution by some of our guys,” Musselman said. “We had four steals tonight, and two of them were by our power forward/center Kamani Johnson.
“That kind of tells you what our perimeter (defenders) did from a defensive creating turnovers standpoint — not much at all.”
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.