ARK-VAN MBB 1/4/22

Arkansas guard Au’Diese Toney looks to drive past a Vanderbilt defender in Tuesday’s 75-74 loss to the Commodores. Toney scored 20 points in the contest.

Arkansas Men’s Basketball fell to 0-2 in conference play Tuesday after dropping a 75-74 nail biter to the Vanderbilt Commodores at home.

The Razorbacks started slow and quickly found themselves down 5-0. A quick run by the Hogs evened the score, but the Commodores took the lead again and held Arkansas at arm’s length until the 12-minute mark. A pair of foul shots from senior guard Au’Diese Toney knotted the game at 17.

Senior forward Stanley Umude took the reins of the offense from then on and put on a masterclass in the post. The 6-foot-6-inch graduate transfer scored 18 points in the first half, shooting 8-9 from the field, and he almost singlehandedly willed the Hogs to a 40-35 lead at halftime.

“Stanley’s scoring in the first half really kept the game close,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said in the postgame press conference. “He shot at such an incredibly high clip.”

Arkansas’ lead evaporated at halftime after Vanderbilt scored five straight points to tie the game at 40. Toney and Umude seemed to be the only Razorbacks who could find the bottom of the net, and they went back and forth with the Commodores. The duo combined for 26 of the team’s 34 second-half points.

“I still don’t feel like I’ve been playing all that well,” Umude said. “I had four turnovers, defensively we couldn’t get the stops we needed to get. My teammates did a good job getting me the ball in good spots, and I was hitting shots I just haven’t been hitting. I feel like I’m starting to find a little bit of a rhythm on offense, but if we’re losing, something has got to change.”

With 4:14 left, Toney sank a 3-pointer that shrunk the Vanderbilt lead to 64-62. The two teams traded free throws that brought the Commodore lead to 67-65 with 3:08 remaining. Vanderbilt’s Scotty Pippen Jr. continued his stellar 22-point night and hit a turnaround jumper that put the visitors up four points.

The Commodores hit two more free throws to take a 71-65 lead. Umude answered with a 3-pointer to cut the lead in half with 1:37 left on the clock.

Vanderbilt responded with a 3-pointer of its own and retook a 6-point lead. Two free throws from senior guard JD Notae with 0:41 left made it a 74-70 game. Vanderbilt hit another free throw, and Notae then took the inbound pass and went coast to coast to get a layup and one that brought the score to 75-73 with just 0:20 on the clock.

Arkansas put on the press and senior guard Chris Lykes got a steal right under the Vanderbilt basket. Lykes went up for a shot and was fouled, giving the Hogs two free throw shots and the opportunity to tie the game at 75.

Lykes has been the player Arkansas has trusted with late game free throws, and the Hogs have regularly put the ball in his hands to ice the game. He hit the first to cut the lead to one, but missed the second. Lykes hustled to get the offensive rebound and swung it out to sophomore guard Jaxson Robinson, who missed the open 3-pointer.

Arkansas got the ball back with one second left, and Notae got free for an open 3-point look that clanged off the rim to give the Razorbacks their second straight conference loss.

“We got a ton of clean looks,” Musselman said. “That’s just kind of how it’s rolled for us the last four or five games. No one in the locker room is satisfied, I’m not, I know our fans aren’t. But look, we did play hard tonight.”

Umude was spectacular, finishing with a season-high 28 points. He looked in command in the post, and was working his full array of turnaround jumpers and power moves to the rim. Umude added the long ball to his arsenal of offensive weapons, draining three of his seven attempts from deep.

Toney bounced back after a rough couple of games. He did the dirty work around the rim, and found many of his 20 points off of second-chance opportunities and at the foul line.

“Au’Diese played like he did in Kansas City,” Musselman said. “Moving without the ball, hitting his feet set 3-pointer. I thought he was phenomenal, especially in the second half.

Notae returned after missing last week’s matchup against Mississippi State with an illness. He had 16 points on 6-17 shooting. His shot selection has to improve if Arkansas is to succeed.

Sophomore Davonte Davis had looked like he was going to be the point guard that the Hogs desperately needed in recent games, but he was not very effective Tuesday. He finished with no points, zero assists and three turnovers.

“He didn’t play very well,” was all Musselman said about Davis’ play before getting up from the podium and ending the press conference.

The Hogs will look to reverse their fortune when they take on Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, at noon Saturday. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

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