Eric Musselman doesn’t make excuses, even after a second straight overtime loss Saturday that every fan will be wondering how it could have been with a healthy Isaiah Joe.
Joe’s long-range bombing is sidelined while he rehabs from knee surgery Tuesday. Whether anybody wants to admit it or not, that has changed how Arkansas plays offensively.
Let’s face it, they don’t have a lot of options.
That showed dramatically in an 83-79 loss at Missouri, which comes after a 79-76 loss to Auburn on Tuesday, was when the problems with this Razorbacks’ team showed up.
We’ve been expecting it. Sooner or later, teams that rely on guards and shooting with just seven players have one of those games where, well, it just doesn’t work.
When Joe went down Mason Jones was able to pick up the slack, scoring over 40 in three straight games, but it all broke down against the Tigers.
“If you don’t rebound the ball, then you foul when you defend, you are going to get a result that you don’t like,” Musselman said later.
As mentioned earlier, he doesn’t make excuses. Especially for defense which is something that should be able to go on the road and work. The Hogs were called for 32 fouls and Missouri converted that to 34 points.
And it could have been worse. The Tigers missed 10 free throws.
Musselman couldn’t even keep up with how many fouled out of the game. He said later it was three, but it was actually four guys. Adrio Bailey, Desi Sills, Mason Jones and Reggie Chaney all ran out of fouls. Desi Sills and Jimmy Whitt, Jr., finished with four.
“We just had some guys not bend their knees, get in a stance,” Musselman said.
The rebounding didn’t help, either. For a team that did well on the defensive end early, getting out-rebounded 36-24 against Missouri put them in a hole and they complicated things with bad defense.
“If you don’t rebound the ball and then you foul when you defend, then you are going to get a result that you don’t like,” Musselman said.
For yet another game, this team didn’t start well in a first half that saw the Hogs trail by as much as nine, yet somehow managed to stay with six at the break, 36-30.
“You kind of get what you deserve if you can’t get open in the first half,” Musselman said. “We turned the ball over too many times in the first half. Missouri was way more aggressive. They denied and we didn’t cut hard enough.”
That’s the technical part. What Musselman didn’t mention was how things have changed offensively with Joe out. He was shooting 34 percent of his 3-pointers, which forced the defense out and opened things for Jones, Whitt and Sills.
The Hogs have been scrambling since he tweaked the knee and wasn’t himself for a couple of games before having the surgery. Musselman has even had to play Bailey and Chaney at the same time.
“When we play two bigs, it’s a big-time struggle offensively,” he said.
It wasn’t Chaney’s fault. He hit 50 percent from the field and put up 17 points, plus had 11 rebounds. Bailey made all three of his attempts and finished with 10 points, but just three rebounds.
And they don’t have a lot of time to figure it out.
Arkansas will be on the road again Tuesday, going to Tennessee, another team trying to figure things out after being thumped by Kentucky at home Saturday, 77-64.
Just remember, with a two-game losing streak Musselman hasn’t lost three in a row in his career. Somehow he’s always figured it out.
It will be interesting to see how he figures this one out.