Beyond the Box: Tigers dominated Hogs in every phase on Saturday

Pure domination.

That’s the most appropriate description for Arkansas’ 83-51 loss to No. 25 Auburn on Saturday. It was the worst Razorback defeat in Bud Walton Arena’s 31-year history.

“This team has not resembled what we built the last four years from a competitive standpoint, from a defensive standpoint, from a loose-ball-getting standpoint,” Eric Musselman said after the game. “So, what are we going to do? We’ve got to try to figure it out as much as we can.”

There’s a lot to figure out for Musselman and his coaching staff, and it’s a little overwhelming deciding which area needs the most work – offense, defense or the intangibles – because everything is bad.

The Hogs still have 18 guaranteed games left on their schedule, but it’s going to be a long three months if they continue to have performances like they did on Saturday.

Let’s take a closer look at Saturday’s loss and discover some of the most glaring issues with this Razorback team.

Offensive offense

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Entering this year, Musselman appeared to swing the pendulum of his team’s DNA in the complete opposite direction from last season.

Instead of a young, inexperienced, defensive-minded and offensively challenged roster like last year, the Razorbacks went out and got veterans like Tramon Mark (Houston), Khalif Battle (Temple), El Ellis (Louisville) and Jeremiah Davenport (Cincinnati).

These veteran guys had pretty solid offensive numbers while leaving a lot to be desired at the other end of the floor. The thinking obviously being that Musselman’s staff could coach this up to be respectable defensively, while using their offensive prowess to outscore opponents.

However, the offense has consistently looked awful, which has exacerbated the defensive struggles at times. On Saturday, Arkansas shot 18-58 (31.0%) from the field, 6-27 (22.2%) from three and only assisted on eight baskets – four of which came from Keyon Menifield Jr.

The offense is stagnant most of the time, the off-ball movement is not where it needs to be and poor shot selection leads to easy fast break opportunities for the other team (Auburn outscored Arkansas 17-7 on fast break points).

While there’s still plenty of time for things to start clicking, there hasn’t been much evidence that this team is capable of having a moment like that, similar to year’s past.

Controlling the paint

(Photo by Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)
(Photo by Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)

Musselman opted to “run it back” with virtually the same rotation of big men this season – Trevon Brazile, Jalen Graham and Makhi Mitchell. The only real change was inserting Chandler Lawson in the role of Kamani Johnson, who is out of eligibility.

As a result, the struggles Arkansas experienced in last year’s NCAA Tournament against UConn’s Adama Sonogo have bled over into this year and were on full display against Auburn.

The Tigers absolutely dominated the Hogs in the paint. Arkansas was outscored 48-18 in paint points and were outscored 54-22 in 2-point baskets overall. Once again, mental lapses on pick-and-roll coverage and minimal effort from help defenders were major factors – which is a common theme this season.

It doesn’t appear that they’re going to be able to fix those issues and Saturday was likely the first realization for a large portion of the fanbase.

Overall effort

(Photo by Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)
(Photo by Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)

A big reason for this Arkansas team’s struggles, which were alluded to in the previous two points, is the lack of extra effort and energy from guys. The intangibles are a huge part of winning basketball games and the Hogs have struggled in those areas.

Things as simple as diving for loose balls, boxing out your opponent, extra efforts to stop the ball in transition, etc. are just not being done at a high level. Last year, the roster was filled with guys who excelled in those areas. Anthony Black, Jordan Walsh, Kamani Johnson and Devo Davis.

Davis is the only one who returned, but he hasn’t looked like the Devo from the last few seasons at all. Towards the end of Saturday’s game, it looked like the entire team just gave up. What was a single-digit halftime deficit avalanched into the worst loss in the entire history of Bud Walton Arena.

If Arkansas has any hope of turning it around, the effort and energy from this roster is going to have to improve drastically. Before you start worrying about different offensive or defensive schemes, the biggest area of concern is the heart of each player on the roster.

Story originally appeared on Razorbacks Wire