Sun November 19, 2023

By Lance Hawley

Hogs Fall to UNC Greensboro
By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE -- No. 14 Arkansas was looking to head to the Bahamas undefeated, but UNC Greensboro had other plans as they defeated Arkansas 78-72 in Bud Walton Arena Friday night.

Eric Musselman wasn't happy with how his team played on Monday against Old Dominion, but at least the Hogs escaped with a win in that one. They weren't as fortunate Friday.

"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 — to 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."

UNC Greensboro hit 9-of-24 3-pointers (38%). That is 20 3-point shots made against the Hogs in the past two games.

"Not getting close enough to guys," Musselman said. "Not having enough desperation. If you don't think that we've talked about defending the three, I've talked about it with you guys. It's been discussed. It's up to us to fix it. So, we've got to get back to the drawing board, and we don't have much time before we play three real quality opponents in the Bahamas."

The hot shooting from distance was only on one end. Arkansas only hit 4-of-23 shots (17%) from distance. El Ellis hit a pair while Trevon Brazile and Khalif Battle each hit one. Arkansas shot 44% from the floor while UNC Greensboro shot 48 so the differences from behind the 3-point line were one of the big differences in game. UNC Greensboro forced 13 turnovers while committing only 10. They outscored the Hogs 16-8 on points off turnovers.

"Yeah, 13 turnovers," Musselman said. "I mean, the second half we did a pretty good job of taking care of the ball, but first half not very good. There's just so many things I can point out. I mean, Khi (Makhi Mitchell) has four fouls in eight minutes or six minutes or whatever it was. El had a lot of turnovers in the first half. I thought their star player got off in the first half and got way too many easy looks. The issue when you schedule like this is if you don't come to play, good teams like this are going to beat you. They're a good team, and they played a great second half at Vanderbilt. They played a really good first half tonight, and we didn't play a good game at all."

Musselman was also asked if shot selection was a contributing faccor to the loss?

"I mean, we scored 48 points in the second half," Musselman said. "We had over 200 passes. That was one of the first things we checked. I actually thought we did a pretty good job against the zone getting the ball to Devo (Davis), and he made some good reads. Obviously, about the two-and-a-half-minute mark, we struggled making shots. And 4 for 23... I don't even think we needed to attempt that many. I thought the first half we tried to... I mean, they didn't have many shot blockers, you know. Going to the rim was an issue in the first half. We had 24 points in the first half and 48 in the second. The problem was the first half offensively we were not good. Defensively, probably not good in either half."

Arkansas trailed 38-24 at halftime, but many felt a quick turnaround was coming in the second half. Instead, UNC Greensboro enjoyed its biggest lead of the game, 41-26, with 18:11 remaining in the game. Arkansas got within four, 52-48, with 9:54 left on the clock, but could just never get completely over the hump. Arkansas never had the lead after it was 4-2 very early. Musselman was asked about the rotation as well.

"I think that we tried to change the starting lineup, so that’s one change," Musselman said. "I don’t think that had anything to do [with the final score]. I thought Chandler (Lawson) came in and actually played great defensively. We’ve got a lot of holes that we have to fix."

Mitchell, who was outstanding against Old Dominion, replaced Lawson in the starting lineup alongside Davis, Brazile, Ellis and Tramon Mark. Mark led the Hogs with 21 points followed by Ellis with 19, Battle 11 and Davis 10. Brazile topped the Hogs with 9 rebounds to go with 9 points, 2 blocks and 1 steal. Joseph Pinion, who didn't play against Old Dominion, played a minute and missed his only shot.

Keyshaun Langley led the visitors with 23 points while Mikeal Brown-Jones had 17 and Joryam Saizonou added 12. Langley and Brown-jones really impressed Musselman.

"Yeah, they’re really good," Musselman said. "I thought T-Mark did a great job in the second half. I mean, the first half, 18… I don’t know… I cannot remember a player that we’ve coached against that had 18 (points) in a half. He really got the better of us, for us, in the first half and we made some adjustments. We changed who was guarding him. We tried to deny him the ball. We got burned on one back-door, but other than that, I thought we did a good job of denying his catches a little bit more in the second half."

UNC Greensboro Coach Mike Jones was pleased to see his team escape with a win after narrowly losing to Vanderbilt in their previous game.

"Obviously that’s an outstanding team on the other side on that court," Jones said. "We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Coach Musselman is such a great coach. What he’s built here has been amazing. We were very fortunate to get an opportunity to come back here again this year. So we appreciate that.

"I’m just proud of our guys for sticking together for 40 minutes. It wasn’t going to all going to be good, and it wasn’t all going to be bad. We just told our guys to stick together for 40 minutes. We’ve played some games 25 minutes here, 30 minutes there, but never 40. And we just felt like it we could be ourselves, stick together and play for 40 minutes we’d have a chance."

Arkansas (3-1) will now face Stanford on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. and televised on ESPNU. The Bad Boys Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas has the Hogs playing three games in as many days. Depending on what happens against Stanford, the Hogs will take on Memphis or Michigan Thanksgiving Day at either 4 p.m. or 6:30. The tournament will wrap up on Friday.

Photos Courtesy of Craven Whitlow CW3 Sports Action