FAYETTEVILLE – Off their dreadful down 51-31 first half in last Wednesday’s 92-76 loss at LSU the Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday disastrously doubled down Saturday against Alabama.
Arkansas lost, 90-59 at the Crimson Tide’s Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The Razorbacks trailed 42-19 at half Saturday.
Alabama increased the margin, 48-40 in the second half despite Alabama Coach Nate Oats starting to play everyone in uniform but security and custodians before the second stanza was half done.
Other than Arkansas freshman Moses Moody, a game-high 28 points and nine rebounds, there were no bring spots for the plummeting Porkers. Coach Eric Musselman’s Hogs have lost four of their last five, all in the SEC, and stand 2-4 in the SEC, 10-4 overall heading into Wednesday’s rematch at Walton Arena with the Auburn Tigers that Arkansas defeated, 97-85 opening the SEC season, Dec. 30 at Auburn, Ala.
“I thought Moses played well,” Musselman said. “He was aggressive. He did a good job coming off some screens. I thought our set plays – we were much better running set plays than we were in our transition game today.”
Given he was the lone hot Hog taking 25 of the team’s 63 shots, did Moody feel the Hogs’ burden all on him?
“I mean, a lot of shots weren’t falling for the team,” Moody said. “I mean, a lot of the scoring was coming from me. It was just what my team needed me to do at that time.”
Alabama’s Tide, rolling first-place as the lone unbeaten in league play, improved to 6-0 in the SEC and 11-4 overall.
John Petty, 17 points, Jaden Shackelford, 16 points, and Herbert Jones, 13 points, playing despite the hand injury that sidelined him after just eight minutes of Alabama’s 85-65 romp last Wednesday at Kentucky, led Saturday’s slaughter of the Hogs. All could have scored more had not Oats, playing nobody longer than 24 minutes, used the second half to rest the regulars for Alabama’s Tuesday night game at LSU.
An Arkansas team that with vastly different personnel led by now NBA players Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe and departed grad transfer Jimmy Whitt last seasom led the nation in 3-point shooting defense, was shot to pieces by the Tide’s treys torrent.’
The Tide hit 15 of 36 treys, including a combined 9 of 16 by Petty and Shackelford, for the game compounded by Arkansas committing 12 first-half turnovers.
“Obviously my message or my coaching is not getting through on defending the three-ball,” Musselman said. “Because we saw last year us leading the nation in it. And a lot of that is we have a lot of guys who are reluctant to guard the three-point line because they’re worried about getting blown by on the dribble because of lack of lateral quickness.”
For the game Arkansas’ 18 turnovers were just four more than Alabama’s, but Arkansas’ first half’s dozen dug a hole way too deep to overcome.
For the second consecutive game miscues by point guards Jalen Tate, his 10 points blotted by six turnovers, and combo guard JD Notae, three turnovers as the point when Tate rests, vexed Musselman.
“Our point guard play, the last two games we can’t have six turnovers,” Musselman said. “But this is our team and we’ve got to continue to work. Certainly direction wise as a point guard we’ve got to get better. But it’s really when he (Tate) is not on the floor that not having the point guard has really been the biggest issue. They’re both issues, but that’s really been an issue.”
Notae did play in a shoulder brace off an injury against LSU.
“He was fully cleared,” Musselman said. “He was fine. He’s just got to take better care of the ball and he’s got to follow his defensive assignments. … He’s got to play a lot better.”
Graduate transfer forward Justin Smith started but obviously was rusty in his first game back since undergoing ankle surgery off his injury Dec. 30 against Auburn.
Smith logged 18 minutes with five points and a rebound and three turnovers.
“I think he kind of played like we expected he would,” Musselman said given Smith’s lengthy absence. “We wanted to play him between 15 and 20 minutes coming into the game and he played 18. I thought it was good to have him back. I thought he did a good job of moving the basketball and trying to play the right way.”
Moody scored the game’s first points on free throws at 19:42.
Petty more than countered with a trey.
The Hogs would never lead again and hold just one tie, 3-3 with Smith hitting 1 of 2 free throws at 18:41.
By 10:17 Arkansas trailed 22-7 amid a morass of turnovers and missed shots inside.
Minus Moody’s 14 first-half points, the Hogs would have scored less than a half dozen in the first half.
And that was sticking to Musselman’s script of not taking too many first-half threes as they did against LSU.
The Razorbacks tried to attack the basket, 19 of their 26 first-half shots were inside the 3-point line but seemed to make even the easy ones look hard.
“Our missed layups at the rim are very concerning as well,” Musselman said.