Musselman: 'We are challenged offensively'

Musselman: ‘We are challenged offensively’

After his team fell to 1-3 in SEC play with an 84-69 loss to No. 4 Alabama on Wednesday, Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman had a lot to say about the state of the Razorbacks.

The Hogs are averaging just under 65 points per game in the conference, which would rank them 325th in the nation if that was their season average. Without star players Nick Smith Jr. and Trevon Brazile, Arkansas has struggled to find a consistent score from anyone.

“As a coach, the first thing you want to know is that your team is playing hard,” Musselman said. “I think this team is playing hard, but we are challenged offensively. That’s a fact. It is not an opinion.

“There would be a lot of other teams challenged offensively as well if two guys you built your roster with aren’t here. But nobody cares and there are other injuries all over athletics in all different sports in the professional and college ranks. Right now we We’re still trying to figure out who we are.”

Entering SEC play, the Razorbacks were ranked 32nd nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency in KenPom. They are now ranked 57th after four conference games, and their effective offensive field goal percentage also dropped 77 places to No. 134.

The three losses — Alabama, Auburn and LSU — are in the bottom five for single-game offensive efficiency marks this season.

According to EvanMiya’s analysis, four of Arkansas’ top five five-man lineups this season included either Smith or Brazile.

“I mean, just the scoring and shooting numbers, we’re missing … and I want to be perfectly clear: there’s no excuse,” Musselman said. “Like, again, I’ve been in the game too long and injuries are part of the game. But we’re missing two guys that we had projected to play around 60 minutes for us. We’ve got to keep looking and trying to figure it out.”

Arkansas’ 3-point percentage of 28.4% ranks last in the SEC and 345th in the country. According to KenPom, only 18.1% of the Razorbacks’ total points have come on 3-pointers, which ranks them 362 out of 363 teams.

That turned out to be a big difference in Wednesday’s loss to Alabama when the Crimson Tide rattled off three straight with just under five minutes to play to turn a 2-point game into an 11-point game. Alabama was 7-for-10 from deep in the second half alone, while the Hogs shot 2-for-10 from behind the arc the entire game.

Add in the fact that Arkansas is 34-for-55 (61.8%) from the free throw line over the last two games, and the Hogs are really struggling to find consistency on offense.

“I mean we took 10 3-ball attempts to their 20s, so they took twice as many 3s as we did and we only got to the line 23 times,” Musselman said. “So I don’t know how that is… I don’t get it. If we were taking a lot of 3-pointers, I’d understand. But we also have to take better care of the ball. I mean we didn’t shoot the ball well and we lost 15 balls and allowed 9 triples”.

Not only were the shots not falling at a high enough rate, but the team had two extremely costly turnovers during Alabama’s barrage of 3-pointers in a timeout at the 4:54 mark in the second half. To make matters worse, the Hogs have been slacking off creating steals after they ranked ninth in the nation in steals per game (10.7) entering the conference.

Just six steals against the No. 4 team in the nation won’t cut it, and an SEC average of 6.3 steals per game thus far is a concern for Musselman.

“To be honest with you, I’m extremely disappointed in our lack of steals,” Musselman said. “But I haven’t changed the game plan or the outline. You go into conference play and I think people take better care of basketball.”

“Like I said, we can talk about the last two years (but) we’re in a completely different state and a much more uphill battle than we’ve been in since I’ve been here, to be honest.”

The conference slate will continue with a matchup in Nashville against Vanderbilt Commodores at 1 pm CT on Saturday inside Memorial Gymnasium. The match will be broadcast on ESPNU.

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