A string of double-digit losses new for Musselman

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said playing competitively has become an issue for his team after Vanderbilt defeated the No. 15 Razorbacks 97-84 at Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday.

“I mean, we lost three games in a row by double digits,” Musselman said. “I can’t remember any team we’ve coached unless it was at the NBA level.”

Musselman couldn’t recall that in his eight seasons as college coach through his last three games, that never happened.

Arkansas’ three-game losing streak began with a 72-59 loss at No. 22 Auburn. Then, No. 4 Alabama defeated the Razorbacks 84-69 Wednesday night at Walton Arena – Arkansas’ most lopsided home loss in Musselman’s four seasons.

As coaches at Nevada and Arkansas going into their last three games, neither of Musselman’s teams had suffered double-digit losses in more than two straight games.

In 2015-16, Musselman’s first season in Nevada, the Wolf Pack lost back-to-back games to Wichita State 98-69 and New Mexico 88-76.

During the 2020-21 season, the Razorbacks lost back-to-back games at LSU 92-76 and at Alabama 90-59.

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In Musselman’s three seasons as NBA coach, the Golden State Warriors have twice had to three straight losses in double digits, with this happening once in 2002-03 and 2003-04. In his only season as Sacramento coach in 2006-07, the Kings never had three consecutive double-digit losses.

Arkansas (12-5, 1-4 SEK) ranks 11th in conference standings with LSU and Mississippi State. The only SEC team among the Razorbacks is Ole Miss with 0-5.

Vanderbilt (9-8, 2-2) bounced back from a 50-40 deficit early in the second half as the Commodores scored 63 points, beating the Razorbacks at home for the first time since 2013.

“Disappointed in competitiveness,” Musselman said. “Disappointed when a team goes on a run and fights that run.

“But we have a whole group of guys who are learning and we are trying to learn too [as a coaching staff].”

Arkansas has nine healthy newcomers experiencing SEC games for the first time.

With the loss of second forward Trevon Brazile, a transfer from Missouri, to a season-ending knee injury in nine games against North Carolina-Greensboro, the only Razorbacks with prior SEC playing experience are junior guard Vomte Davis and senior forward Kamani Johnson.

“From a competitive standpoint, we have a lot of people who don’t understand how hard it is to win in this league,” Musselman said on a radio show from Arkansas after the Vanderbilt game. “And sometimes there is a learning experience.

“So right now it’s hard to win in the conference. This is something new for a lot of guys.”

Along with Brazile’s loss, the Razorbacks have adjusted to not having Nick Smith, a projected top-five pick in the NBA draft, as a freshman guard. Smith has missed 12 games, including the last six, with a knee injury.

Musselman has said he expects Smith to be out at least until the end of January – another five games – and there is no timetable for his potential return.

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“We’re a team that’s two players short and that’s really noticeable as the season progresses,” Musselman said on the Arkansas Postgame radio show.

Junior guard Ricky Council, a Wichita State transfer, led Arkansas by 24 points against Vanderbilt.

“I still think we’re going to be fine,” Council said. “I think we can recover well. We just have to tune in again.”

Arkansas will be looking to bounce back at No. 20 in Missouri, where the Razorbacks play Wednesday night, two weeks after beating the Tigers 74-68 at Walton Arena for their only SEC win. The Tigers (13-4, 2-3) lost 73-64 at Florida on Saturday.

“All we can do is get ready and prepare for Missouri like we have in the past,” Musselman said. “That’s all we can do. We will do that.”

Defending numbers are the focus of Missouri practice after Vanderbilt shot 69.2% (18 of 26) and hit 6 of 9 three-pointers in the second half against the Razorbacks.

“You have to play hard, you have to keep the guy in front of you, you have to defend at a high level,” Musselman said. “The staff have to do a better job, I think too, across the board.”

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