Inside Arkansas’ collapse at the hands of Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament

20 minutes of great basketball followed by a complete collapse.

This is consistent with them Arkansas Razorbacks this season, and it happened again in their 67-61 quarterfinal loss to Texas A&M on Friday night.

Arkansas looked like the better team from the top and led by 13 at halftime, 38-25. However, as has happened in so many games this season, the lead disappeared in the second half after a frustrating performance by the Razorbacks on both ends of the floor. Texas A&M fought back to lead by as many as eight with about a minute left.

The Razorbacks finally showed some fight to cut the Aggie lead to four with 27 seconds left, but Texas A&M was able to complete the historic comeback and send Arkansas home.

Here’s a closer look at what it led to another disappointing loss for the Hogs in the second half.

Attack in the second half

(Photo by Steve Roberts – USA TODAY Sports)

After starting the game right where they left off after the win over Auburn, Arkansas’ offense went completely cold in the second half.

The Razorbacks were able to build a 13-point lead behind 54.2% shooting and take high-quality, unquestioned shots. In the last 20 minutes, there was a lot of fighting for contested jumpers and missed shots around the rim that usually fall. Part of that is thanks to Buzz Williams and his halftime adjustments, but a lot of that blame is on the players who just aren’t executing.

“I think we shot better in the first half. Lighter shots. Hitting at a high level,” Anthony Black said after the game. “In the second half, they just started flying defensively and we started throwing the ball around and missing shots.”

Arkansas hasn’t been good in the second half in a lot of their games, which is usually the opposite of what we’re used to seeing from Eric Musselman-coached teams.

“Historically, we’ve been good in the second half, this season we haven’t been good in the second half of games,” Musselman said. “We are young. The halftime speech has been the same for the last eight years. The adjustments were the same. We are just a young team.”

Youth and inexperience is reflected in a large number of shot selections. Instead of attacking the basket and taking what the defense gives them, we’ve seen players settle for contested shots or wait late on the shot clock and be forced into low-percentage shooting.

This Arkansas team is very dangerous because they have a lot of talent, but their inexperience is something that will keep them from going as far as they should in the NCAA tournament.


(Photo by Steve Roberts – USA TODAY Sports)

In Thursday night’s win over Auburn, Arkansas was able to outscore the Tigers by 18, which has been Eric Musselman’s big emphasis of late.

The Razorbacks were on the other side of the rebounding battle tonight, as the Aggies were in complete control from the start. Arkansas was outrebounded 43-26 overall and 17-8 on offensive rebounds.

How important was the rebound in this game?

Texas A&M was able to score 15 second-chance points off offensive rebounds. Arkansas managed just 9 second chance points. That’s a difference of 6 points. The final point difference? 6 points. 67-61 (view, other).

“The biggest theme going into the game was the rebounding of the basketball,” Eric Musselman said. “Obviously, 26 to 43, we didn’t jump the ball.”

Arkansas has lost four of its last five games and lost a rebound in each of them. It’s clear that at this point in the year, the Razorbacks can’t have success when they’re being dominated on the glass.

Free throw disparity

(Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel – USA TODAY Sports)

The difference in free throws for both teams in each half was very confusing and there was an obvious change in the officiating from one half to the next. Now, I’m not saying the officiating cost the Razorbacks the game because it didn’t. At all.

However, there was a noticeable difference in how some things were called in the first half compared to how they were called in the second and Arkansas just couldn’t adjust.

Arkansas hit 10 free throws in the first half and 9 in the second half, which is pretty consistent. Texas A&M only went to the charity stripe twice in the first half, but got 22 trips in the second half. The Aggies weren’t fouled after halftime until there was 11:46 left in the game. In that same span, Arkansas committed seven team errors. The move was enough to change the complexion of the game in line with Texas A&M’s more aggressive game plan.

“The first half was physical on both ends of the floor,” Musselman said. “Texas A&M beat us, but if you go down 7-0 in foul play at any level, it affects your defensive aggressiveness, especially (against) a foul-shooting team like Texas A&M.”

The main problem was that instead of adjusting to a tighter officiating game, Arkansas continued to settle for contested jump shots instead of trying to force the issue by attacking the rim. This goes along with my previous point about the youth and inexperience of this team. Regardless, as Eric Musselman pointed out, eight minutes in which your opponent is not fouled is enough to affect how the game is played.

Rotations and fatigue

(Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel – USA TODAY Sports)

The SEC Tournament is a much different beast than the NCAA Tournament. Instead of days between games, like in the NCAA Tournament, the SEC Tournament is a four- to five-day game where you play every day.

Eric Musselman prides himself on his attention to detail and obsessive preparation before games. He is also known for using shorter rotations than other coaches, rarely playing more than eight guys. In Thursday night’s win over Auburn, six Razorbacks played 21 minutes or more. [autotag]Look like Johnson[/autotag] he was next on the team in minutes and totaled a whopping eight minutes of play, to be exact.

Against Texas A&M, Musselman only played seven guys all night. [autotag]Michael Mitchell[/autotag] played the fewest of any Arkansas player against the Aggies, which was 15 minutes. Which means those same six Razorbacks played the most minutes on back-to-back nights.

The shorter rotations that Musselman runs are not conducive to running in the SEC Tournament format. Having a day off between games, like in the NCAA Tournament, is much better and ultimately what matters most. Fatigue wasn’t the biggest factor, but it definitely played a small role in Texas A&M’s second-half comeback and victory Friday night.

The story originally appeared on Razorbacks Wire

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