The Arkansas Razorback basketball team heads back to Bud Walton Arena this Saturday on a 3-game losing streak and their worst loss of the season getting thrashed 82-61 by the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville. They will host the Mississippi State Bulldogs who are looking for a sweep of the Hogs after winning the first contest 77-70 in Starkville on January 22nd.
Arkansas (16-8, 4-7) didn’t play horribly, shooting 48% from the field but were putrid from three-point range (20%) and the free-throw line (55%). Veteran guards Jimmy Whitt Jr. and Mason Jones put up 20 points a piece but outside of them, Arkansas got very minimal production from the rest of the team.
Meanwhile, for the Bulldogs (15-9, 6-5) it was the Reggie Perry show. The former Razorback commit and SEC Player of the Year candidate put up a double double scoring 26 points (6-13 FG), 13 rebounds, and a near-perfect 13-14 from the charity stripe. Perry was certainly not humble about his performance, as he made plenty of eye-to-eye contact with the Razorback bench where there is clearly no love lost between him and the Arkansas fan base.
This will be the fourth straight game Arkansas will be without Isaiah Joe, the team’s second-leading scorer. With no timetable set for his return, they are still looking for answers on how to win in his absence. Outside of Jones, who is also a candidate for SEC Player of the Year, this squad just does not have a consistent reliable perimeter shooter excluding Joe. As a result, opposing teams have a mostly simple gameplan: stop Mason Jones.
There were many reasons Arkansas got bullied by Tennessee. Along with getting out-rebounded, which has been a common theme, it’s almost impossible to beat anyone shooting 30% from the field and 31% from deep.
Arkansas can split this series with the Bulldogs if they get back to their basics of forcing turnovers and taking care of the ball when it is in their possesion. That of course is much easier said than done when you are missing Joe who had vastly improved this season as a defender.
Mississippi State will try to stay out of the bottom half of the SEC as they currently sit at the sixth spot and Arkansas hopes to make their climb up as they have dropped to the tenth spot. They were listed as one of the “last 4 in” in Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology.