Razorbacks’ record below .500 for first time in Musselman tenure

After senior El Ellis gave Arkansas a two-point lead with 1:07 remaining Saturday – with a chance at victory – the Razorbacks went scoreless the rest of the way. The Hogs missed two shots from the field and two from the free throw line in the final minute, ultimately falling on the road at Mississippi State, 71-67.

This marks the first time in Head Coach Eric Musselman’s tenure at Arkansas that the Hogs (12-13, 3-9 SEC) have fallen below .500. The last time they had more losses than wins, was under former coach Mike Anderson in 2018, after dropping the season-opener to Texas, 73-72, in overtime. The last time the Hogs sank that far during conference play was in 2015-16, when they fell to 12-14. yet they still finished 16-16 that season.

Arkansas was without two of their primary post players on Saturday, as 6-foot-11 sophomore Trevon Brazile continues to be out with a sore knee, and 6-foot-10 senior Jalen Graham was sidelined with a shoulder injury he sustained  against Tennessee on Wednesday.

“First of all, I’m super proud of the effort,” Arkansas Head Coach Eric Musselman said. “When you’re without a preseason all-league player, who is 6-foot-11, any team in the league would go through some struggles.

“I know our fans, our locker room, our coaching staff, and our players are super frustrated without coming away with a win. But we played as hard as we possibly could tonight.”

Mississippi State true freshman Josh Hubbard turned in a team-high 19 points for the Bulldogs, but none bigger than his three-pointer with 58 seconds left, which put State up, 68-67, and proved to be the game-winner. The Dogs hit three free throws in the final 10 seconds to ice it.

Senior Makhi Mitchell was the workhorse for the Razorbacks, turning in his most impressive performance in his two seasons in Fayetteville. The 6-foot-10 forward scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, while adding six rebounds, a steal and two blocked shots. He finished 8-of-12 from the field and 5-of-5 from the line.

After scoring the first four points of the game, the Razorbacks surrendered 10 unanswered to the Bulldogs, over the next three minutes. The teams then began trading baskets, until El Ellis’ 13-foot jumper midway through the half cut the lead to 18-13.

Junior Tramon Mark drained a three to tie the score at 29-29 with 3:02 remaining, before Mississippi State scored the final five points of the half, to take a 34-29 lead into the intermission.

An old-fashioned three-point play – a layup and a free throw – by Mitchell eventually tied the game at 46-46 with 12:28 remaining. Then Mitchell scored another layup to give the Razorbacks a 48-46 advantage.

The game stayed within three points until the end, as neither offense produced much down the stretch. Mitchell tied the score at 61-61 with a dunk, then gave the Hogs a two-point lead on a layup with 2:15 left in the game.

With State up 68-67, Bulldog senior Cameron Matthews missed a pair of free throws with 29 seconds left, giving Arkansas a chance to take the lead. Unfortunately, the Razorbacks failed to get a shot off before turning it back over with 11 seconds to go.

Mississippi State (17-8, 6-6) outrebound Arkansas, 42-27, in the game, including 17 offensive boards. The Bulldogs were 19-of-32 from the line, and made as many free throws as Arkansas took (14-of-19).

Senior Khalif Battle was the only other Razorback to finish with double-digit scoring, putting up a solid 18 points, to go with two rebounds and two assists

Matthews turned in a double-double for the Dogs, scoring 17, by hitting 6-of-7 shots from the field, and yanking down a game-high 10 rebounds.

Arkansas will face another road challenge on Tuesday, with a trip to Texas A&M. The game will tip at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

Story originally appeared on Razorbacks Wire