FAYETTEVILLE – Post the disastrous down 51-31 first half and eventual 92-76 loss last Wednesday at LSU, Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman hit his Razorbacks with a hard practice.
A practice so hard “they’ll remember it over the course of the season,” Musselman said.
Seems the hard practice only led to harder times. The Hogs stunk both halves, particularly the down, 42-19 first half, of last Saturday’s
90-51 disaster at Alabama.
So now what’s the approach as Arkansas, 10-4 overall but a struggling 2-4 in the SEC, prepares for Wednesday’s 8 p.m. SEC Network televised SEC rematch vs. the Auburn Tigers at Walton Arena?
“Yeah, I think that’s a great question,” Musselman responded when asked via his Zoom postgame press conference in Tuscaloosa, Ala. “I’ll get with the staff on the plane. Not really sure.”
Off that hard Thursday practice with much time devoted defending against the 3-point shot, Arkansas’ 3-point defense was flooded by the Crimson Tide’s successfully shooting15 of 36 3-point attempts.
“All the drills that we’ve done on defending the three…” Musselman said … “we’ve done those drills. Obviously my message or my coaching is not getting through on defending the 3-ball. Because we saw last year us leading the nation in it.”
He sees this defense not only strafed by threes but qutquicked on the inside.
“A lot of that (struggles defending the three) is we have a lot of guys who are reluctant to guard the 3-point line because they’re worried about getting blown by on the dribble because of lack of lateral quickness. So, a lot of areas that like I said we’ve got to get better at and improve on.”
Last year’s 20-12 team marking Musselman’s debut inheriting from preceding Coach Mike Anderson, guards Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe, both now in the NBA, and 6-6 undersized but athletic forward Adrio Bailey compelled to play center blended with Musselman recruited staunch defending grad transfer guard Jimmy Whitt, was too small to rebound like these Hogs can.
But they could defend the 3-point shot. And they could score.
Other than freshman guard Moses Moody, 28 points against Alabama, Arkansas’ offense desperately needs repairs, too.
“First of all, we’ve got to have good point guard play,” Musselman said. “Most of our scoring tonight was in half-court sets. We have become a team that’s better executing half-court plays than playing out of the flow.
Last year our team was great playing out of the flow. Poor decisions and poor shot selection makes that near impossible right now, to play out of the flow. Like I’ve stated, a lot of things we’ve got continue to teach and work on.”
They need a quick fix rematched with Auburn, beaten 97-85 by Arkansas in both teams’ SEC opener back on Dec. 30 at Auburn, Ala. but now a momentum building 2-4 in the SEC unlike the Hogs’ wallowing 2-4.
For their last three games, Coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers took SEC leader Alabama, 6-0 in the SEC, to the wire before losing, 94-90 then prevailed, 95-77 at Georgia. Last Saturday at Auburn, the Tigers defeated Kentucky, 65-59.
“Clearly we’ve got to get a lot better in a lot of different areas,” Musselman said. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us between now and our next game and between now and the end of the season. And then we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us when the season’s up as well. We’ve just got to continue to try to get these guys believing in themselves as best we can.”
Moody tries viewing that the Porkers’ plummet toward the bottom will coordinate a race back toward the top.
“ I’ve said it in the past,” Moody said. “I feel like at your lowest point you’re open to your greatest change. We’re just coming together and trying to make it through these couple tough games. But they say if you make it through the night there is a brighter day. We’re meeting a lot of adversity right now, so we’ve got to get through that, and we’re going to learn from that and we’re going to build on it.”
Maybe so. But while Moody obviously plays with confidence it hasn’t been contagious, particularly last Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt when you’re losing like we are that we definitely have some players that have lost some confidence,” Musselman said. “And probably the team as a whole. The only thing I know is to continue to teach, try to build them up. I think that’s the only thing that you can do.”