The No. 10 Arkansas men’s basketball team fell from the ranks of the unbeaten after its 88-66 loss Saturday to the Oklahoma Sooners in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Razorbacks struggled offensively, shooting just 34% from the field and 29% on 3-pointers.
After the Sooners began the game on a 13-0 run, Arkansas fought the entire first half to get back in it. Sophomore forward Jaylin Williams fought through contact with 8:38 left in the half to hit a layup and-one, shrinking the Sooners’ lead to 25-18.
Oklahoma immediately followed with a 10-2 run over three minutes to go up 35-20. The run was emblematic of much of the game, during which the Razorbacks fought to get into striking distance, then the Sooners pulled away again.
Arkansas scratched and clawed its way back to just a six-point deficit at half and went into the locker room with the score at 39-33.
Sophomore guard Davonte Davis was the catalyst of the Hogs’ near comeback. He had an impressive first half, with 11 points on 4-10 shooting, including sinking three of his four 3-point attempts.
Directly out of the half, Davis hit a jumper that brought the Hogs within four, and the Sooners responded with an 11-0 run.
The Razorbacks roared back with a 9-0 run of their own that brought the score to 52-47 with 12:10 left on the clock, punctuated by a slam from senior guard Au’Diese Toney that forced an Oklahoma timeout.
Senior guard JD Notae, Arkansas’ leading scorer on the season, was fouled on a 3-point attempt and nailed all three free throws to bring the Hogs within one possession with 9:55 left.
The Sooners hit three straight 3-pointers to take a 15-point lead with 4:02 on the clock, effectively ending the game. Musselman received a double technical foul with 3:30 left and was ejected after voicing his displeasure about a series of physical plays that went uncalled.
“We dug ourselves into a hole to start the game,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said in the postgame press conference. “We clawed ourselves back in there to be down three, but we just got out-toughed tonight.”
Davis was the leading scorer for Arkansas with a career-high 26 points Saturday. He shot 9-21 from the field and added five rebounds and three assists.
“I really don’t care,” Davis said. “We came in here to win and we didn’t get the job done. We need to just get back in the lab and continue to work harder and get ready for the next game.”
The starting five for Arkansas was a combined -133 in plus/minus. Senior guard Chris Lykes, the Hogs sixth-man, was -19.
The Razorbacks did not move the ball nearly as well as they have in previous games. As a team, the Hogs had just 10 assists and turned the ball over 14 times. The Sooners outrebounded Arkansas 36-29.
Arkansas continued its failure to contain 3-point shooting teams. Oklahoma shot 59% from deep, after coming into the matchup averaging 32% on its 3-point attempts.
“It’s a recurring theme,” Musselman said. “We struggle to cover 3-point shots and we struggle to contain the dribble drive. We have guys stuck in the middle of no man’s land. We have guys that have to improve as individual defenders, for sure. A lot of things we have to clean up over the next week.”
Notae continued his run of poor shooting performances. He shot just 3-14 from the field and 2-7 from 3-point range.
“He thinks he’s capable of shooting himself out of (the slump),” Musselman said. “I can promise you it has been addressed. If it’s been addressed and talked about, and it continues to happen, roles might have to be changed and I might have to look at another lineup. I think we are beyond the point of hoping that it works itself out by shooting out of it.”
Arkansas will have a week to correct its issues. Up next, the Hogs will take on the Hofstra Pride at 8 p.m. Saturday in Simmons Bank Arena in North Little Rock.