Arkansas Razorbacks struggling defensively

Arkansas’ recent bouts on the ground were highlighted by poor defense and Wednesday night was no different.

Playing without SEC leader in interceptions, JD Notae, due to illness, the Razorbacks had no answer for a Mississippi State team not known for their offensive prowess. The Bulldogs scored on 38 of their 67 possessions and shot 50% in the second half, moving away for an 81-68 victory.

It’s been a two-half story in almost every game in Arkansas this season and head coach Eric Musselman has said his squad needs to find a way to play good basketball from start to finish.

“As a group we have to understand that you have to play really hard against good teams for 40 minutes,” said Musselman. “And you have to have a competitive nature on yourself that if another team is doing a race you have to be able to counter that race.”

After a hotly contested first half, the Bulldogs pounced on the Razorbacks from the start in the second half. Arkansas managed to bar three runs at 2:56 pm, but Mississippi State responded with an 18-8 run that put the game out of reach.

It was like the Bulldogs couldn’t miss, and the Hogs were not helping each other on the defensive at all.

“I think we just didn’t come out with the same energy,” Arkansas forward Stanley Umude said. “We let slip a bit, and we couldn’t get back into it, but it’s our responsibility. They played well, but at the end of the day we have to be better and be able to prepare for a full 40 minute game. “

Umude led the team with 19 points in the game, including 13 in the second half, but had just three rebounds – none in 15 minutes after halftime. In fact, the Bulldogs dominated the glass in the second half, passing Arkansas 23-12.

Of Mississippi State’s 23 second-half rebounds, nine came on the offensive glass. The Bulldogs turned them into nine second chance points. Add the board advantage to 17 turnovers – including seven interceptions – and that was the recipe for success against the Hogs.

“I think we did a great job in the first half bouncing the basketball and not very well in the second half,” Musselman said. “When you add the difference in the offensive rebounds, the turnovers we had, then you add the fact that they took 28 free throws to our 14, I’m surprised it’s a 13-point game and not one more. large margin. “

Arkansas have now surrendered more than 80 points in three of their last four games. Each of those games resulted in a loss and the Razorbacks are only 3-12 when they allowed at least 80 points in the Musselman era.

The key to success for a team coached by Musselman is playing locked defense for 40 minutes. Arkansas have played with soft, low intensity coverage on hardwood this season, and it is starting to show in the final score.

Last year, the Razorbacks finished the season with No. 10 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency in the country, according to KenPom, and they made a run for the Elite Eight. Even in Musselman’s first season, they were 57th in this category. After Wednesday’s games, however, Arkansas is No. 71 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

There is a six-day gap between now and next Tuesday’s game with Vanderbilt. It will be vital for the Razorbacks to find an identity as a team and to understand things at this end of the pitch.

“We always feel like we didn’t play our best game,” Umude said. “We think we just have to put everything in place with a 40 minute game. We just have to build. Get out of that losing streak and just build.”

Arkansas will have a chance to return to the winning column when they host the Commodores next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. CT in Fayetteville. The game will be broadcast on the SEC network.

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