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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Hogs needed better defense, better decisions

by Wally Hall | January 15, 2021 at 2:36 a.m.

It was like the Arkansas Razorbacks got smacked in the face with the world's largest snowball with 17:33 to play in the first half.

Connor Vanover had hit a three-pointer to make it 7-4 Arkansas.

The Razorbacks had a great view as they then watched the LSU Tigers go on an 18-0 run to lead 22-7 with 12:20 to play in the first half.

The Tigers were far from being finished.

They would outscore the Hogs another 22-6 making it 44-13 with 6:10 to go in the half.

At that point, for the first time in his career ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes was almost at a loss for words.

Not quite, but he had spent the last 11 minutes pointing out what the Razorbacks were doing wrong and not doing right.

By then head coach Eric Musselman had called three timeouts, something he rarely does in a whole game, let alone the first 14 minutes.

It was a lot like watching the Razorbacks against Missouri.

All five guys spread out on the perimeter, eventually someone would try to go one-on-one driving to the basket.

A defender would collapse to help protect the basket, the shot would miss and everyone was headed to the other end of the court.

Wednesday night at LSU, for those 14 minutes it was more like a game of make-it, take-it and the Tigers were doing the making and taking.

Granted, the Razorbacks started two true freshmen and a redshirt sophomore, so if anyone wants to say they are young, that would be correct, although they also start two senior transfers.

What appeared to plague the Hogs Wednesday and in the loss to Missouri was decision-making on the court.

Musselman was trying all kinds of combinations, shouting instructions and trying to fire his team up, but there was too much standing and far too little passing the ball.

Musselman says he wants 200 passes a game. He probably didn't get half that against LSU.

In Saturday's 99-69 win over Georgia. the Razorbacks had 24 assists.

Against LSU in a 92-76 loss, they had eight assists. No one had more than two.

The highest percentage shot in basketball is the dunk and the Hogs had none. In fact, it was the fourth game in a row when they didn't have one.

They did get 76 shots, but only made 26 for 34.2%, and that was dragged down by taking 31 threes and making only eight, 25.8%.

Arkansas has some good shooters, just not as many as the players seem to think.

Every player who logged more than 20 minutes of playing time but one attempted a three-pointer, and that was Fort Smith freshman Jaylin Smith who had a solid game off the bench.

He was 2-of-3 shooting from the field, 3 of 3 on free throws, led the team with 10 rebounds and had 2 steals and took 2 charges.

That's the kind of play Musselman is looking for from this team.

Hard-nosed, unselfish and making things happen in a positive way.

Arkansas dropped from No. 21 in the NCAA's NET rankings to No. 29, and the rule of thumb is you want to stay in the top 34 if you want a comfortable spot on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Now the Razorbacks travel to Tuscaloosa for the biggest challenge of their season.

Alabama is undefeated in SEC play, having knocked off Tennessee and clobbered Kentucky to prove itself a legitimate threat to win the regular-season title.

The Crimson Tide get lots of acclaim for its three-point shooting, but their success starts with hard-nosed defense.

That's something the Razorbacks need to improve on and making as good of decisions on the road as at home.

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