Defensive issues stand out in Arkansas Razorbacks win over Furman

FAYETTEVILLE — On a night that the Razorbacks scored 97 points and shot 60.7% from the field and 42.1% from three, they should have cruised to a comfortable victory over Furman. Instead, defensive issues plagued the Hogs and allowed the Paladins to hang around for most of Arkansas’ 97-83 win.

The Razorbacks ended up notching their sixth victory of the year, but Furman drilled 12 three pointers at a 37.5% clip. The deep range barrage was led by sophomore forward Alex Williams, who was 5-9 from behind the arc. It was a sloppy performance against a Furman team that ranks 167th in the nation in three point percentage.

“I thought in the first half holding them to 35 points and 36% from the field, pretty good,” head coach Eric Musselman said. “But then eight threes. So it’s three-point defense. And I think if you look across tonight’s game, as a coach, it would be the 12 made threes.”

It wasn’t an outlier performance for the Hogs, as they entered the night ranked 225th in opponent three point percentage. Against Old Dominion on Nov. 13, they allowed the Monarchs to hit 11 threes at a 45.8% clip.

At many points throughout the night, Musselman appeared frustrated with the team for missed assignments and poor closeouts. In the postgame presser, he cited defensive issues as the reason for his frequent substitutions.

“You’ve got to play with consistency,” Musselman said. “You can’t be good one night and then struggle one night…tonight was a product of guys not going over dribble hand-offs and giving up threes so next man got the chance to go in. It was kind of a revolving door, not based on depth. It was based on not following the game plan and giving up threes.”

Monday’s game marked the fifth time this season that Arkansas’ defensive efficiency rating was over 100.0 on KenPom. The 12 made threes by Furman was the most of any opponent the Hogs have faced this season.

The Paladins’ perimeter fireworks were matched by Arkansas’ Khalif Battle, who scored 25 points in 23 minutes and was 4-7 from three. Some of the loudest crowd pops of the night came after a pair of ankle-breaking stepbacks from the Temple transfer. Battle shared his coach’s frustrations with the Hogs’ defensive performance.

“I mean, they shot the ball well, but I think as a team, as a unit, we just have to stop letting guys think they play with us early,” Battle said. “I think we have to start punching first. When we start doing that, we’ll start winning by bigger margins…we’re going to work on it as a team.”

Up next, Arkansas (6-3) will travel to Tulsa to face 25th-ranked Oklahoma (7-0) in the Crimson and Cardinal Classic. Tip-off at the BOK Center will be at 3 p.m. CT, and the game will be televised on ESPN2.


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