Andy Hodges

Hogs have bad game, still in NCAA, but Muss wanted to win

Arkansas’ 78-71 loss to LSU on Saturday didn’t affect their NCAA seeding, but you get the idea Eric Musselman really, really wanted to win.

One of the things I’ve liked about Eric Musselman is he doesn’t tolerate losing very well and he doesn’t appear to do a whole lot to hide it.

You get the idea he hates losing more than he likes winning. That’s usually what you find in championship-type coaches, by the way.

Saturday, Musselman was about as miserable as he usually is following a loss after LSU knocked Arkansas out of the SEC Tournament, 78-71.

“We just had some guys not play well at all,” Musselman said. “You can’t do that in a tournament setting.”

The Razorbacks had several that were just, well, not sharp at all.

As it does so often, missed free throws made a difference. The Hogs were 11-of-19 and in a seven-point loss that drives coaches crazy.

Players, too.

“I don’t know what it was … a lot of them just weren’t falling,” said Moses Moody later. He had 28 points, but missed four free throws. “Myself and the team, the ball was just going in and out. Sometimes it just goes that way.”

Justin Smith added 21 points, but only four other players registered points at all.

Overall, they just looked sloppy offensively.

“We did a poor job of taking care of the basketball,” Musselman said.. “We had 10 second-half turnovers. We drove the ball into traffic.”

Those were things this team hadn’t done very often while piling up 13 straight SEC wins to become one of the hottest teams in the country by the end of the year.

Jaylin Williams being out for the tournament finally caught up with the Hogs. When they needed a body with some fresh legs, they didn’t have anybody.

“We just didn’t have enough gas in the tank tonight on a back-to-back,” Musselman said.

And through all of that, Arkansas still had a shot to win the game down the stretch.

They cut it to a single point, 72-71, with 37 seconds left but JD Notae had a live-ball turnover when he just flat lost the ball while dribbling and LSU hit free throws to close it out.

“I give our guys a lot of credit for playing until the very end,” Musselman said. “We cut that thing back to one.”

Some coaches don’t mind losing in the conference tournament. When you’re safely in the NCAA, it really doesn’t matter. When Arkansas won the national title in 1994, Kentucky ran them out of The Pyramid in Memphis in the SEC semifinals, 90-78.

Nolan Richardson wasn’t too worried about it. He had a bigger goal in mind.

But Musselman wants to win every single time there is a game. Probably of just about any type. He’s a competitive guy.

Which, for fans, is what they should want and expect. It’s what you have to have to compete for championships.

And should be the goal … in every single sport.

Musselman has that and will have a shot at a bigger championship starting next week.

The Hogs will probably be a No. 3 seed when the rankings come out Sunday, starting at 5 p.m. Winning the entire tournament wouldn’t have improved that seeding, in the opinion of ESPN’s Joe Lunardi on Saturday morning.

That doesn’t change anything for Musselman.

If you’re keeping score, he wants to win.

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