FAYETTEVILLE – While he likely had plenty of his own disparaging adjectives to apply, Eric Musselman said they weren’t required.
His Razorbacks applied them themselves following their atrocious performance in last Saturday’s SEC 81-68 loss at Walton Arena to the Missouri Tigers.
Losing to Missouri, ranked 12th in last week’s Associated Press poll and 10th in Monday’s released Net rankings, wasn’t a shock though still surprising at Walton,
But the Razorbacks, 9-1 overall, 1-1 in the SEC, hitting but 19 of 71 shots, including missing 20 of 23 layups even with Mizzou blocking but one shot, stunned all around college basketball.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Musselman said at his Monday press conference. “We didn’t defend as well. You know it was the first time we didn’t share the ball as well as we have been in the past. We played a little bit selfish.’ Those were our players’ words, not even my words. Those were some of the things that our guys have talked about. So we’ve got some areas to clean up for sure.”
And little time to clean them. With Sunday spent as the NCAA mandated one day per week off, the Razorbacks rely on Monday and Tuesday practices to prepare for Wednesday’s 6 p.m. (CST) SEC game against the Tennessee Volunteers, 7-1, 1-1, on ESPN2 at the Vols’ Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn.
Musselman again emphasized that Missouri apparently intimidated Arkansas blocking but but one shot and 18 for the season while the shot-blocking Vols already have blocked 42 shots in eight games.
“ I’m not sure why you miss layups if they had one blocked shot,” Musselman said. “Now you’re going against a team in Tennessee that does block shots. If I was going to pick a game I thought we were going to miss layups, it would be Tennessee. So we’ve quickly got to figure out how to score around the rim when you’re in the painted area.”
Inside the Razorbacks, outrebounded, 51-36 clearly missed injured 6-7 forward Justin Smith, their leading rebounder and along with 6-6 freshman guard and leading scorer Moses Moody, their most versatile inside-outside players in Musselman’s view.
The Mizzou game marked the first of what is projected to be a three to six weeks absence from surgery since injuring his ankle during last Wednesday’s 97-85 SEC success at Auburn.
Against Mizzou Musselman started 6-3 freshman guard Davonte “Devo” Davis of Jacksonville in place of Smith and variously among regular starting guards Jalen Tate, Desi Sills, and Moody and starting center Connor Vanover variously interchanged sixth-man 6-2 guard JD Notae and forwards Jaylin Williams, the 6-10 freshman from Fort Smith Northside, 6-8 junior 2-year letterman Ethan Henderson of Little Rock Parkview and 6-10 Vance Jackson, the graduate transfer via the University of New Mexico.
Who starts for Smith in Knoxville?
“I’m not really sure,” Musselman said before Monday’s practice. “We’ve been meeting as a staff. Probably won’t know until right before tip-off who is going to start. We’ll tinker with some different lineups today. We don’t have a lot of 6-6 guys that play kind of the 2,3 and 4. We have a group of bigs and we have a group of guards. Justin and Moses are the guys that slide back and forth between.. But we’ll still try to figure out who that will be. We just need somebody to step up and fill a void.”