Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Razorback basketball notebook: Defensive issues bite Hogs
Arkansas guard Davonte Davis defends UNC-Greensboro's Keyshaun Langley on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, in Bud Walton Arena. Visit nwaonline.com/photo for the photo gallery.
FAYETTEVILLE — The issues Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman harped on the first two weeks of the season bit the No. 14 Razorbacks in the backside Friday in their 78-72 loss to North Carolina-Greensboro.
The top concerns for Musselman are primarily guard-centric — perimeter defense and keeping the ball in front defensively.
The Spartans knocked down 9 of 24 three-point attempts in the upset. Their guards also contributed to a 56.7% team effort on two-point attempts.
UNC-Greensboro made 14 of its 17 two-point shots at the rim. And its 9 three-pointers pushed Arkansas’ weekly threes-allowed total to 20 on 48 (41.7%) attempts.
“[It was] much of the same things I've talked about,” Musselman said. “We're not defending the three, and we're not guarding the dribble drive. We've basically had the same defensive concepts for eight years and might have to look at changing some things based on our lack of ability to — especially the guard play — keep the ball in front of us and also contest the three.
“That seems to be problematic to do both. Tonight, we were supposed to take away the three, and we certainly didn't do that.”
Musselman said he and his coaching staff prior to next week’s three-game stretch at Battle 4 Atlantis in The Bahamas need to come up with a “little bit different” scheme than what has has been implemented through four games.
“Whether it works or not, I don’t know,” he added. “We can ill-afford to continue playing…whether it’s pick-and-roll, whether it’s chasing guys off screens, whether it’s playing guys off isolations, we have to adjust, and we will, starting tonight. This team has been incapable right now other than the Purdue [exhibition] game of taking away the three and taking away the dribble.
“I’ve got to get with the staff and get with the players and make some kind of adjustment.”
Adjustments are needed. Stanford, the Razorbacks’ first opponent in The Bahamas, made 12 of 25 three-point attempts in a 25-point win over Eastern Washington on Friday.
The Cardinal are shooting 38.1% from deep through their first four games.
Home Streak Ends
Before Friday night’s loss, Arkansas had won 38 consecutive non-conference games in Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas was 36-0 in non-conference games in Bud Walton Arena under Musselman and won its last two non-conference games against Texas State and Austin Peay under former head coach Mike Anderson.
The Razorbacks’ last non-conference loss in Fayetteville had been to Georgia Tech, 69-65, on Dec. 19, 2018.
Musselman’s only previous non-conference loss in the state of Arkansas was 89-81 to Hofstra on Dec. 18, 2021, in North Little Rock.
UNC-Greensboro forward Tim Ceaser, a 6-9 fifth-year senior from Marion, had 7 points and 4 rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench.
Ceaser, who transferred from Utah Valley this year, hit a three-pointer to give the Spartans a 33-22 lead in the first half.
In three games this season, Ceaser is averaging 6.3 points and 3.3 rebounds, and has hit 5 of 9 three-pointers.
Two of the Razorbacks’ top three most-used lineups against UNC-Greensboro finished in the red in regards to plus/minus.
Arkansas’ group of Khalif Battle-Trevon Brazile-El Ellis-Davonte Davis-Tramon Mark played 12:32 together, according to an advanced box score. It was outscored 34-26 and operated offensively at a 1.02 point-per-possession clip.
The Razorbacks’ starting lineup — Ellis, Davis, Mark, Jeremiah Davenport, Brazile — was outscored 11-6 in 3:28 on the floor. The offense was largely unproductive in that time, scoring 0.857 PPP.
Arkansas’ top lineup featured Battle, Ellis, Davis, Mark and Chandler Lawson, who did not start for the first time this season. It was plus-3 — 15-12 — in 7:21 and scored 1.44 PPP.
The Razorbacks won the 10:38 that Lawson played 19-14. Forward Makhi Mitchell was also plus-5, but was unable to stay on the floor because of foul trouble.
Arkansas dropped to 2-1 against UNC-Greensboro.
The Razorbacks won the teams’ first meeting 89-74 on Dec. 1, 2001. It was former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson’s 500th career victory.
Last season, Arkansas rallied to beat the Spartans 65-58 with a 19-9 run to close the game.
Spartans vs. The SEC
UNC-Greensboro is 1-1 against SEC teams this season. The Spartans lost 74-70 at Vanderbilt on Tuesday.
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