When Arkansas wasn’t getting pushed all over the floor by Tennessee their offense was doing the hardcourt imitation of the Keystone Cops in the ugliest game of the year, falling 82-61 Tuesday night.
You got a clue this one might be difficult before tip-off when word came down the SEC’s leading scorer, Mason Jones, would not be starting for the Razorbacks. It was a strategy that misfired.
Jones responded by going 1-of-3 from the field for the game and getting the rest of his nine points at the free-throw line.
It was that kind of night.
“We didn’t even catch the ball cleanly,” Eric Musselman said later.
As a team, the Razorbacks turned the ball over 14 times, shot 30.6 percent from the field and were out-rebounded, 40-29. They didn’t really play well enough to make this one interesting past the midway point of the first half.
“Disappointing effort,” Musselman said. “Wish we would have played better and harder but we didn’t. We got a lot of work ahead of us.”
It actually could have been a lot worse than the final 21-point difference. The Vols weren’t exactly a well-oiled machine and, in addition to the 11 turnovers, had just as many times where they bobbled the ball around like it was a hot potato.
“We’re not great rebounding, we’re missing shots right now and we’re bobbling balls, turning the ball over,” Musselman said. “We got to try and gett better, that’s the only thing I know to do.”
In case you’re wondering, he’s as exasperated as any fan.
“I’m sure the fans are extremely disappointed and so am I,” he said. “So is our coaching staff.”
Maybe the thing that really will have him focused when they start getting ready for a Mississippi State team that was steamrolled by Ole Miss in Oxford on Tuesday night is the way the Vols just shoved the Hogs around.
“When we play teams who are physically tough, we really struggle,” Musselman said. “We have to get stronger. We are small, but we still get pushed off our spots, as well.”
Yes, there will be some of the Lunatic Fringe fan base that just goes ahead and jumps off the ship. There will be others that just shrug and go on.
Jones’ not starting is interesting, though. When you keep the leading scorer in the league on the bench without an apparent injury and the best explanation being that it’s a “strategic move” does make many raise an eyebrow.
If that was the strategy, though, it backfired. Arkansas started by fumbling the ball all over the court and never could really figure things out on the offensive end.
“We didn’t have any offensive flow,” Musselman said. “We’re not great rebounding, we’re missing shots right now and we’re bobbling balls, turning the ball over.”
Musselman has joked he talks things over on his morning walks with his dog, Swish. He may look at him Wednesday morning and tell him he’s not listening to him any more.
But nobody can really put this one on Swish.
He’s not the one that made the mess on the court at Tennessee.