After Arkansas’ loss to Missouri on Saturday, Eric Musselman was as dejected in the postgame process as he’s been and he wasn’t hiding from it.
Now he goes on the road to face a Top 10 team in Tennessee and how the Razorbacks respond Wednesday night will be interesting.
“When you look at their ranking and who they’ve beat, it’s for sure the best team that we’ve played this year,” Musselman said Monday afternoon.
Coming off the worst game the Hogs have played all year, what is most intriguing is to see how they respond against their best opponent.
Missed layups against Missouri was maybe the biggest head-scratcher. Hitting just 3-of-23 on layups is the type stat that drives coaches crazy and for hyper guys like Musselman it’s worse.
The biggest cause may have been unforced errors on basic technique. That’s even weird to type because the basic layup is something most youth-league players execute fairly decently.
“Yes, I have addressed technique, yes, I have addressed knock off the degree-of-difficulty layups,” he said Monday.
And it’s been pretty basic stuff and he’s given his staff pretty clear directions on where the focus should be.
“Knock off the euro-steps, knock off the spin, come to a two-foot jump stop and put the ball in the hole,” Musselman said. “Go old school on your finishes around the rim.”
It wasn’t a case of the Tigers blocking shots. A lot of those blown layups were clean looks.
“Missouri only had one blocked shot,” he said Monday. “That’s one more than I had in the game. I’m not sure why you miss layups if they had one blocked shot.”
The problem wasn’t new. It finally showed up in full force Saturday. Musselman may not admit it but he probably figured it was going to happen at some point.
“It’s been a problem with this team all year, our shots around the rim,” he said. “It’s not just one game. It got magnified in one game.
“When you get an offensive rebound and there’s three guys with their arms up, you don’t try to shoot through six arms, and you pass the ball out and you spray it around for a quick three.”
The bottom line, basically, is the players can’t play selfish.
“I’ve sent a lot of text messages, a lot of phone calls, some individual meetings with guys face-to-face,” Musselman said. “Our shot selection has got to improve and us sharing the basketball has got to improve. And it’s not one guy.”
There’s no way to know how much losing Justin Smith affected this team. At times on offense, they looked lost. Smith may have been more of a stabilizing force than we thought, particularly on offense.
It’s a chance for somebody to earn more playing time if they can do something with the minutes Smith was playing.
“Everybody wants an opportunity, everybody thinks they’re real good, so go do something,” Musselman said.
Vance Jackson is one player that leaps immediately to mind.
“We do need Vance to rebound the ball and defend for us,” Musselman said. “Get loose balls. Get rebounds. Certainly from a three-point shooting, if he misses one or if he misses eight, I still feel like he’s a great, great shooter.”
Now he’s got to show that in a game and it’s just one part of the puzzle Musselman has been working on since the Missouri game ended.
For the Hogs, it may simply come down to players figuring out a way to win more matchups.
“Right now, we don’t have quite enough guys that are beating their initial defender to create a scoring opportunity for a teammate,” Musselman said.
How they figure out a way to do that better against the Vols is going to be interesting.