Reeling Razorbacks quickly falling out of NCAA contention
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Dusty Hannahs has struggled at times over the last two seasons with putting his frustration into words following difficult Arkansas losses.
Yet, it was Hannahs who was the only player to meet with the media following the Razorbacks’ most recent stumble: Tuesday night’s 72-59 home loss to Vanderbilt.
It was the third loss in the last four games for Arkansas (17-7, 6-5 Southeastern Conference), which in two weeks has gone from likely NCAA Tournament candidate to a team with a coach, Mike Anderson, whose job status is an open question.
The sharp-shooting senior Hannahs was succinct in describing the team’s mood after the loss to the Commodores and the cumulative effect coming after defeats at Oklahoma State and lowly Missouri.
“It’s really disheartening,” Hannahs said. “It’s tough, it’s really tough.”
The Razorbacks started this season 11-1, leading many to believe the program had righted itself following a 16-16 disappointment of a year ago. However, they are now 6-6 in their last 12 games and have fallen to 50th in the RPI ratings.
The recent losses have been difficult to stomach for a fan base well aware that Anderson has reached the NCAA Tournament only once in his first five seasons. Making matters worse is how listless Arkansas has appeared in falling behind early in each of those losses — including a 25-4 deficit midway through the first half against Vanderbilt.
The lackluster defensive effort dates to last season, when Arkansas was 247th in the country while allowing an average of 74.7 points per game. The Razorbacks haven’t fared much better this season, ranking 233rd in the country in allowing 74.3 points per game.
Arkansas is also just 132nd in the country in field-goal defense (42.7 percent) and 152nd in 3-point defense (34.3 percent).
The Commodores, the SEC’s leading 3-point shooting team, took advantage while building their early lead on Tuesday, hitting seven of their first nine 3-pointers and finishing 12 of 23 from behind the arc.
“I just think it’s inconsistent, it’s not connected right now,” Anderson said. “Especially the last couple of ballgames, I think we’re allowing people to do what they want to do. Our defense is geared to not letting people do what they want to do.”
Anderson believes Arkansas’ postseason fate is still in its own hands, with seven regular-season games and the SEC Tournament remaining. However, that stretch includes road games at No. 19 South Carolina and No. 17 Florida, allowing for even less margin for error.
Hannahs, for one, is well aware of how quickly the postseason hopes are fading and he expects his teammates to do something about it.
“We’ve got the players, we’ve got it, we’ve just got to come together now,” Hannahs said. “The (Missouri loss) should have been the biggest wakeup call ever, but this has got to be it for us. We’re going to get back in the gym and figure out what’s going on and play hard, and that’s all I can really tell you all.”
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