Musselman Reveals the Key Stat in Arkansas’ 2nd SEC Defeat + More from Georgia Loss

Keyon Menifield Jr., Arkansas basketball, Arkansas vs Georgia
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

It doesn’t matter in the SEC standings or on its NCAA Tournament resume, but Arkansas actually showed some fight Wednesday night.

Trailing by as many as 13 in the first half, the Razorbacks battled back to make it a game after halftime, only to come up short in a 76-66 loss at Georgia.

The Bulldogs (12-3, 2-0 SEC) have now won 10 straight, while Arkansas (9-6, 0-2) is still winless with a pair of double-digit losses in conference play and just three games over .500 for the season.

While this wasn’t nearly as bad as the 32-point beatdown against Auburn a few days earlier, when Keyon Menifield Jr. admitted the team “quit” en route to suffering the most lopsided loss in Bud Walton Arena history, the Razorbacks aren’t about to start taking moral victories.

“We definitely showed fight in the second half,” guard Tramon Mark said. “I’m proud of our team for showing that fight. We didn’t have that last game at home, so definitely a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot of stuff to (fix). This still isn’t the outcome we wanted.”

The final margin of Wednesday’s game also doesn’t show just how close it was, as Arkansas took a shot that would have tied it up with about five minutes left, but Khalif Battle’s 3-pointer early in the shot clock was off the mark.

Not even a minute later, Jabri Abdur-Rahim delivered what felt like the dagger by catching a low pass and pulling up for a 3 from the wing that doubled Georgia’s lead. The Bulldogs’ leading scorer (12.9 ppg) and a 43.2% shooter from beyond the arc this season, he missed his first five attempts before finally knocking one down.

“That was a big shot for him,” Mark said. “I closed out on him, I wasn’t all the way there and he just rose up and that was his one big shot he made and it mattered. That was the one that mattered the most.”

As big of a shot as that was, the Razorbacks were still within striking distance up until the game’s final minute thanks to a couple of quick 3s Georgia missed. They had the ball trailing the five, but Makhi Mitchell committed his fourth turnover of the game with 1:18 remaining and the Bulldogs turned it into points with a 3-pointer by Silas Demary Jr., essentially icing their victory.

That was Arkansas’ 15th turnover as a team, which was only two more than it forced by Georgia, but the Bulldogs made the most of their opportunities by turning them into a 25-10 advantage in points off turnovers.

Struggles From Beyond the Arc

As bad as those turnovers were, Eric Musselman pointed to the 3-point shooting by both teams as the difference in Wednesday’s matchup. Georgia made some of its attempts, while Arkansas struggled to knock them down.

The Bulldogs didn’t light the nets on fire by any stretch, but still went 9 of 27 (33.3%) from deep compared to the miserable 3-for-21 (14.3%) performance by the Razorbacks.

“I mean, if you’re a shooter, you’ve got to make open shots,” Musselman said. “I thought the difference in the game was some of their shooters making shots.”

Despite scoring a game-high 24 points, Tramon Mark missed all four of his 3-pointers, while Trevon Brazile and Khalif Battle each went 1 of 4 and Jeremiah Davenport went 1 of 5. Keyon Menifield Jr. and Davonte Davis chipped in a pair of misses apiece, as well.

“We got good looks,” Mark said. “I shot 0-for-4 from 3. My last 3 was a great look. I think I shot one that was kind of forced, but all the other ones were good looks. But the other guys like (Battle) and (Brazile) got great looks. Keyon got great looks. I passed to them in transition and we got great looks. We just got to make them. We weren’t making them tonight.”

Arkansas hasn’t been a great 3-point shooting team this season, but it has been much better than recent seasons and far better than what they showed against Georgia.

Coming into the game, the Razorbacks were shooting 34.3% from beyond the arc. Mark, Battle and Brazile, specifically, had a combined percentage of 41.3%.

Had Arkansas simply shot its season average, it would have made four more 3s — an additional 12 points in a 10-point loss. The way Musselman built the team over the offseason, that was supposed to be a strength and the lack of production in that area was amplified because of the team’s defensive struggles.

“We come out of timeouts and have at least three times wide open looks and miss them,” Musselman said. “Then they come down and their shooters are making shots and ours are not.

“We’re obviously not the defensive team we’ve been over the last four years. We’re not guarding the ball like we have. We’re certainly not guarding the three-point shot. So, if your overall team defense is not up to what it’s been in the past then your offense should be better. I mean, 3 of 21. We had a bunch of defenders in the past that could go 3 for 21.”

Another Poor First Half

The reason Arkansas found itself in a hole in the first place was because of how poorly it opened the game. It’s an issue that has plagued the Razorbacks off and on throughout the season, but particularly in the two SEC games.

In the first halves against Auburn and Georgia combined, Arkansas has scored only 54 total points while shooting 36.1% (22 of 61) from the floor, 23.8% (6 of 21) from 3-point range and 33.3% (5 of 15) from the charity stripe while committing 16 turnovers.

Against the Bulldogs, the Razorbacks didn’t score until 4 minutes and 14 seconds into the game. Their first six possessions included three missed 3s, two turnovers and an 0-for-2 trip to the free throw line by Jalen Graham.

That proved to be a sign of things to come, as Arkansas also had a scoring drought of 5:02 later in the half. During that stretch, it went nine straight possessions (six missed shots, three turnovers) without scoring, allowing Georgia to go on a 12-0 run.

To cap it all off, the Razorbacks squandered a couple of chances to cut their deficit to single digits just before halftime.

With about 28 seconds left, Graham missed a dunk that would have made it a six-point game. Instead, it resulted in a fast break for the Bulldogs that ended with RJ Melendez going 2 for 2 at the charity stripe — essentially a four-point swing.

After those free throws, Arkansas got the ball with about 24 seconds left, meaning the shot clock was off. Instead of driving to the basket and giving themselves a second-chance opportunity, the Razorbacks ran the clock almost all the way down before Trevon Brazile heaved up an air ball from well behind the 3-point line.

Luckily for them, things got better in the second half. After shooting 33.3% in the first half, Arkansas shot 46.7% from the floor after halftime and scored 42 second-half points.

“I would say we just got better looks probably in the second half,” Mark said. “The ball started moving a little bit more and that resulted in better looks for us.”

Tramon Mark Heats Up After Halftime

One reason for Arkansas’ offensive success in the second half was the play of Tramon Mark.

The Houston transfer scored 18 of his 24 points after halftime and finished the game 7 of 14 from the floor while making all 10 of his free throws.

“We moved him to the point,” Musselman said. “It was middle pick and roll. He was phenomenal. He goes 10 of 10 from the foul line. We only take 22 foul shots; he takes 10 of them. Thought he was super effective.”

Mark also had 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals for the Razorbacks, giving him a well-rounded performance.

“I didn’t try to take it upon myself or anything,” Mark said. “I was just being aggressive and I was rewarded with some foul calls because I was being aggressive. I saw shots that I liked and made some of them.”

Up Next for Arkansas Basketball

Thanks to classes not starting until next week, the Razorbacks will remain on the road and head straight to Gainesville, Fla., for their next game. They face Florida at 3 p.m. CT Saturday in a game that will be televised on ESPN.

The Gators are also 0-2 in SEC play, but one of those losses was a narrow home defeat against Kentucky. They’re coming off a blowout loss, though, as they fell 103-85 at Ole Miss on Wednesday.

Other Arkansas Basketball Tidbits

  • For the first time since the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, Makhi Mitchell was in the starting lineup. He finished with 7 points on 3 of 4 shooting, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks, but also committed four turnovers.
  • Throw in Davonte Davis returning to the startling unit and it was the ninth different five-man combination Musselman has used to open a game this season — which now includes only 15 games played.
  • Although the Razorbacks did a good job of shutting down Georgia leading scorer Jabri Abdur-Rahim, they couldn’t slow down Justin Hill. He eclipsed his season average of 9.1 points in the first half and finished with 19 points on 6 of 13 shooting, including 3 of 4 from deep, in 24 minutes off the bench.
  • Jalen Graham missed his first four free throws, including two that would have completed 3-point plays, and went 1 of 6 for the game. He is now shooting 41.2% from the charity stripe this season and 48.6% for his career.
  • After providing the Razorbacks with a much-needed shot in the arm, Keyon Menifield Jr. turned in his worst performance in an Arkansas uniform Wednesday. He was held scoreless on 0 of 5 shooting and played only 51 seconds in the second half. “They were trapping the pick-and-roll,” Musselman said. “He’s struggled in both SEC games. These guards are strong. They have good size. But has definitely struggled in conference play.”

Postgame Interviews

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Arkansas vs Georgia Box Score


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