The shorthanded Arkansas men’s basketball team fell 81-68 to the Mississippi State Bulldogs in its Southeastern Conference opener Wednesday in Starkville, Mississippi.
The Razorbacks fell to 10-3, with all three losses occurring in the last four games.
The Hogs were without their leading scorer, senior guard JD Notae, because of illness and were missing sophomore forward Kamani Johnson, who is indefinitely suspended from the program.
“We knew coming out of Christmas break (that Notae would not be available),” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said in the postgame press conference. “We got on the plane to compete and win the game. We were down bodies, but we’re not excuse-makers. If we have enough bodies to play, we’re going to play. We lost the game and we got outplayed.”
The first half was back and forth for the whole 20 minutes. Arkansas broke away momentarily off of a quick 3-pointer from senior guard Au’Diese Toney that gave the Hogs a 15-10 advantage with 12:12 on the clock.
The Bulldogs evened the score at 15 with 10:27 left and went on to take the lead. The Hogs took a 23-22 lead after a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Jaxson Robinson with four minutes left. That was the Razorbacks’ final lead of the game.
The Bulldogs slammed home a dunk with just 11 seconds to go in the half, taking a 33-31 lead going into the break.
Mississippi State’s lead grew slightly in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but Arkansas scratched and clawed to keep the game within reach. The Razorbacks managed to keep pace with the Bulldogs, but they could never mount a comeback.
Senior guard Chris Lykes sank a pair of free throws that brought the score to 61-51 with 9:36 left, but the Bulldog lead never fell below double digits after that.
Senior forward Stanley Umude led the Hogs with 19 points off the bench. Sophomore guard Davonte Davis was the best starter for Arkansas, finishing with 15 points on 7-12 shooting and four assists.
“I was just taking what the defense was giving me,” Umude said. “My teammates were putting me in good spots and I was able to knock down the shots I work on in practice.”
Turnovers were Arkansas’ downfall Wednesday evening. The Hogs coughed up possession 17 times, and 12 of those were steals forced by the Bulldogs, which resulted in 25 points off turnovers.
The Razorbacks have another extended break and will not hit the court again until they take on the Vanderbilt Commodores at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Bud Walton Arena. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.