Coming off of an overtime loss at home to the highest ranked team in the SEC, Auburn, the Razorbacks hit the road to take on another team of Tigers. The trip to Missouri brought out some minor off the court drama. The Mizzou athletic department brought out the Battle Line Rivalry trophy, won by their football team for the past several years in a row. It seemed like a bold move at the time considering the Tigers had a losing record on the season, and the Hogs were widely regarded as a top 4-5 team in the SEC. Nevertheless, the Hogs were unable to back up their hype against a lesser team as they fell to Mizzou in overtime. The Hogs have now lost two straight games in which the lead in the second half and couldn’t overcome foul trouble and depth in overtime.
Running out of Razorbacks
The game against the Missouri Tigers proved to be, for lack of a better word, ugly. On both ends of the court. The Tigers shot an abysmal 18.8% from three point range, but the Hogs were not much better at a combined 21.4%. However the poor shooting was not the most notable stat from this sloppy game. The referees would ultimately steal the show. The fouls were not uneven. The Hogs committed only five more than the Tigers, a few of which came late in the game when the Hogs trailed. No, the issue was not unfair referees. It was trigger happy referees. This game ended with 57 total foul calls. Fifty. Seven. Both teams combined to have six players foul out; four Hogs and two Tigers. Given Eric Musselman’s shallow rotation and Isaiah Joe’s injury, the Hogs finished the game with the only five healthy and available scholarship players they had. They had no other players available on their bench aside from walk-ons, ineligible transfers, and the injured Isaiah Joe.
Career Night for a Rising Star
Although this loss will likely be viewed as the worst of the Razorbacks’ season, not all was lost as one Razorback continued his upwards trend. Since being benched due to losing his mental focus against LSU, Reggie Chaney has been nothing short of phenomenal. Against Missouri, he poured in a career high 17 points to go along with 11 rebounds and a pair of both blocks and steals. He shot 50% from the field, 71% from the free throw line, and committed no turnovers. Considering Mason Jones only shot 3-14 for the field to limp into his 17 points, Chaney was easily the biggest reason the Hogs were in this game for as long as they were. Jimmy Whitt broke his scoreless streak by knocking down 15 points. However, he still only shot 33.3% from the field.
Heart Attack Hogs
The loss to the Tigers marks the Razorbacks’ seventh loss of the season. It also gives them their seventh loss by seven points or less. The term Heart Attack Hogs has lived up to its name this season. Every loss this team has suffered has been by no more than seven points. In fact, their average margin of defeat during losses is just over four points per loss. The Hogs have been in every single game they’ve played in this season all the way to the final buzzer. Even seven of their wins have come by less than eight points.
Razorbacks’ Road Ahead
The Hogs have lost five of their last seven games. The most embarrassing being their most recent against a below average Missouri team. Their sharp shooter is injured. The other stars look fatigued. They have no options when they get too deep in foul trouble. Things are not exactly pointing up for the Razorbacks, and the road ahead does not get easier. However, despite all the signs pointing downwards, the Hogs still have 16 wins on the season. Joe Lunardi still has them firmly in the NCAA Tournament. Mason Jones is still a stud, Isaiah Joe is expected to return this season, and Eric Musselman is the right man for the job. We will be okay.
Up next for the Hogs is another road trip as they head east to take on the 13-10 (5-5) Tennessee Volunteers. ESPN has the BPI Matchup Predictor favoring Tennessee 58% – 42%. The Vols are coming off of a double digit loss to Kentucky. In fact, the team has lost four of its last five games with its only win coming by one point on the road against Alabama. The Vols’ leading rebounder, John Fulkerson (6.0), is only 6’9. They do however boast five different players averaging 4+ rebounds per game compared to the Hogs’ four players (minus injured Isaiah Joe).
The games from here on out should be pretty similar to preview. The team has to stay out of foul trouble. Mason Jones has to score. And everyone has to make their free throws. Most losses this season have had a margin of defeat smaller than the number of FTs missed by the Hogs.
@ Tennessee – 13-10 (5-5)
Mississippi State – 15-8 (6-4)
@ Florida – 14-9 (6-4)
Missouri – 11-12 (3-7)
Tennessee – 13-10 (5-5)
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