Arkansas’ 79-77 loss to South Carolina on Wednesday night is the type loss that tends to haunt teams in March and it’s really pretty simple how this one got away.
“We had some guys that did not play up to their ability,” was how Eric Musselman summed it up later. “Then you add in the fact the free throws …”
Ah, that’s going to hurt. Earlier in the season we were talking about how the free-throw shooting had improved. Lately that’s careened into the ditch.
Against the Gamecocks, the Razorbacks were 26-of-40. South Carolina, believe it or not, was worse, just 17-of-33 in a game where the officials acted as grand marshals in a parade to the line.
“You can coach, you can game plan, but when you leave points on the board like we did from the foul line …,” Musselman said, almost at a loss. “I don’t know what else to do, but have them shoot some more foul shot reps.”
It didn’t help that his assistant, Hays Myers, was hit with a technical foul with 5:10 left to play and the Hogs trailing by three, 69-66.
“The only person that needs to talk to the referees is me and me only,” Musselman, who was obviously not happy with Myers, said later. “Extremely disappointed.”
The Gamecocks’ Jair Bolden hit four straight free throws. Yes, the team that made just over half of it’s free throws made four in a row when it counted.
That didn’t end it, though. The Hogs got the ball back with 26.9 seconds to play down just two points and set up to at least put the game into overtime, but couldn’t get it to Mason Jones for a drive, but he couldn’t handle the pass, and Isaiah Joe got off a 3-pointer that was off the mark and the game was over.
“If Mason would have caught it, we didn’t have to get a three,” Musselman said. “We ran an isolation for him and he has done such a good job of drawing fouls and converting. Obviously we all go back and dissect that.”
In the postgame, people got too hung up on the end. This game should have never really come down to that.
Arkansas’ horrendous start, going scoreless for nearly the first five minutes of the game was really the key thing.
And by the end of his time with the media, Musselman was exasperated nobody brought that up.
“We should also talk to you guys a LITTLE about why we didn’t have any rhythm to start the game,” he said. “We couldn’t even get field goals attempted early in the game.
“To me, that was more than anything.”
The Hogs started by not getting good looks at the basket and not making shots.
“We’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” Musselman said.
Jones had 34 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, but didn’t get a whole lot of help on a consistent basis.
Isaiah Joe made five 3-pointers and scored 16 points coming off the bench.
A.J. Lawson led the Gamecocks with 19 points while Jair Bolden and Maik Kotsar added 12 and 10, respectively.
• The 34 points are the second-most of his career.
• The 12 rebounds are a career high.
• The double-double is the second of his career.
• The 15 free throws made are the most by a Razorback since Corliss Williamson sank 17 (of 22) versus Ole Miss on Feb. 18, 1995.
• He is the first Razorback since Bobby Portis to have a 30-10 double-double (Vanderbilt Jan. 19, 2015).
• He is the first Razorback to have at least 34 points and 12 rebounds since Mario Credit (34 and 13) versus Loyola Marymount on Mar. 16, 1989.
Arkansas will travel to Alabama on Saturday in a game set to start at 5 p.m. on the SEC Network.
First half notes
• Arkansas was down 8-0 and did not score until 15:20 on a Mason Jones fast break layup.
• The Gamecocks led by as many as 11 (18-7) at 10:09.
• The Razorbacks’ cut their deficit to three (29-26) with 3:54 left.
• USC went on a 9-2 run to push its lead back to 10 (38-28) at 1:56.
• Arkansas scored the last four points of the half and trailed by six (38-32) at halftime.
• Isaiah Joe led Arkansas with 10 first-half points, making three 3-pointers.
• South Carolina had 19 rebounds to Arkansas’ 18. The Razorbacks had seven offensive rebounds.
• South Carolina shot 57.1% from the field, compared to Arkansas’ 32.2%.
• The Razorbacks were just 8-of-15 from the free throw line.
• Arkansas trailed at the half for the second time at home.
Second half notes
• The Razorbacks scored the first six points of the second half to tie the game, 40-40.
• The Gamecocks answered with a 15-3 run to lead by nine (55-46) at the 14:43 mark.
• Arkansas answered to get within four only to see USC come back and lead by eight (59-51) at 11:55.
• The Razorbacks went on another run to get to within three, but USC scored four straight to go back up seven (65-58) at 7:53. That seven-point lead would be the biggest the Gamecocks would hold the rest of the game.
• Arkansas got to within two on four occasions over the final 6:49, including a one-point deficit (78-77) after a pair of Mason Jones free throws with 28 seconds left.
• South Carolina’s Jermaine Couisnard only converted 1-of-2 free throws with 26 seconds left to put USC up two (79-77).
• Arkansas ran a play and South Carolina deflected the ball out of bounds with 7.9 seconds left. Arkansas got a shot in the left corner but could not convert as time expired.
• Arkansas’ starting lineup was Jimmy Whitt (G) – Jalen Harris (G) – Mason Jones (G) – Adrio Bailey (F) – Reggie Chaney (F) for the second time this season.
• South Carolina won the tip for the 10th time in 20 games this season. Arkansas is 7-3 in such games.
• USC’s Justin Minaya scored the first points of the game, a free throw at 18:01. Mason Jones scored Arkansas’ first points, a fastbreak layup at 15:20. It was his eighth time to score the team’s first points of the game this season.
• Isaiah Joe returned to the lineup after missing the TCU game. He came off the bench for the first time in his career (53rd career game).
• Joe has made a 3-pointer in 343 straight games, and at least one in 51 of his 53 career games. He has made at least three 3-pointers 34 times in his career and has made at least five 3’s in a game 15 times.
• This was the Razorbacks’ second, two-point loss of the season (lost 79-77). Arkansas’ five losses this season have been by a total of 25 points.
Information and notes from Razorback Sports Communications is included in this story.