Moses Moody Courtesy 3/13

The Hogs dropped their first game since January in the SEC Tournament semifinals Saturday afternoon in Nashville.

The No. 8 Razorback men’s basketball team (22-6, 13-4 in Southeastern Conference) suffered a 78-71 defeat by the LSU Tigers (18-8, 11-6) Saturday afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Razorbacks’ offense caught fire early in the first half with SEC Freshman of the Year Moses Moody leading the charge. After scoring five points in Friday’s quarterfinal win, he torched the LSU zone defense and put up 16 points within 10 minutes in Saturday’s loss.

The Tigers switched into a man-to-man defensive scheme midway through the first half. Following the adjustment, Arkansas made just two of its final 18 shots before halftime.

Though the Hogs found themselves down by 10 with three minutes to play, a close-range bucket from senior forward Justin Smith brought the lead down to one with 37 seconds left.

“I think we showed that we are never really out of a game, regardless of how much time is left or the score,” Smith said in a postgame press conference.

LSU extended the lead to three through a controversial drive to the hoop from junior guard Javonte Smart in which he bulldozed Moody. Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman noted that he thought Moody had beat him to the spot and had his feet set.

Despite the no-call, Arkansas brought the ball up the court with a chance to tie but junior guard JD Notae, who had 27 points in the quarterfinal, lost the handle and turned the ball over to give LSU the game.

“I give our guys credit for playing until the very end,” Musselman said. “We just had some guys play not well and you cannot do that in a tournament setting.”

Notae’s last-minute giveaway was just one of 10 second-half turnovers conceded by the Razorbacks.

“I thought we did a poor job taking care of the ball,” Musselman said.

Moody resisted pinning the loss on that singular play and said the team as a whole needs to be more careful with the ball.

“That mistake will be magnified, but it is not what lost us the game,” Moody said.

Moody paced all scorers with 28 points, despite missing four free throw attempts. Arkansas shot just 58% from the charity stripe.

“We did not make free throws tonight (but) that happens,” Musselman said. “I think we just did not have enough gas in the tank on a back-to-back.”

With the end of the historic win streak, Moody emphasized the importance of resetting and not dwelling on the past.

“We were hot,” Moody said. “We were on a streak. This just gives us a chance to regroup, get off that emotional high and get back to the trenches where it all started.”

Smith shared similar thoughts about the team’s success and expressed his eagerness to participate in March Madness.

“When it comes down to it, I think we are proven winners.” Smith said “Everybody dreams about playing in the NCAA Tournament. This will be my first time, so I am excited.”

The Razorbacks earned a 3-seed spot in the NCAA Tournament and will take on Colgate in the first-round Friday in Indianapolis. The game is set to start at 11:45 a.m. and will broadcast on TruTv.

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