Arkansas Trying To Keep It Together

FAYETTEVILLE -- Now is not the time for the Razorbacks to start hanging their snouts.

Arkansas' 80-55 loss to No. 11 Mississippi State was its third straight Southeastern Conference defeat and its 11th in a row on the road in the SEC.

The 25-point spread was the largest margin of the 11-game streak that spans three seasons from the last road game of coach Stan Heath's first season through all of his second and two games into his third.

The Hogs (13-4, 1-3 SEC) did very little right against the Bulldogs except win the second-half rebound battle 27-20 while the MSU lead was 20 points or larger.

Arkansas went to a 3-2 zone after getting behind and held Mississippi State down long enough for a 15-6 edge to cut the lead to 27-17, but the Razorbacks could never sustain anything long enough to overcome the Bulldogs' fire.

"We didn't respond to it," Heath said. "I don't know if we underestimated the rest of their guys, but we sure got off to a bad start and it snowballed.

"I really thought when we cut it to 10 with 3:40 to go, we didn't hold it right there. It just seemed for whatever reason, we weren't in this game."

Junior captain Jonathon Modica, the only Razorback in double figures with 14 on 4 of 11 shooting, said Arkansas can't dwell on a defeat that looked more like one from his freshman season when Arkansas went 9-19.

"We can't lay down and feel sorry for yourself," Modica said. "We have to be in the mode to scrap and claw and get ourselves back with a winning mentality. We have to continue to work hard in practice and the most important thing is to get to a point where we're doing good things on a consistent basis."

The only thing Arkansas did consistently on Saturday was struggle.

• Struggle to match Mississippi State's intensity. Arkansas players had a glazed look in their eyes at halfcourt before the tip and showed little emotion other than frustration while getting run over.

• Struggle to rebound. The Bulldogs won the first-half rebounding battle 20-10.

• Struggle to defend. Enigmatic 7-footer Marcus Campbell scored 15 points, well above his 4.2 career average.

• Struggle to score. The Razorbacks would have been down 21-0 if not for a broken play giving Ronnie Brewer an uncontested layup.

• Struggle to keep it together. Heath's frustration with what he considered inconsistent officiating boiled over in the second half trailing 59-36 and he got his second technical foul of the season after marching after official Eli Roe and yelling in his face well past halfcourt.

Heath had several run-ins with the officials in the first half. At the 7:16 mark with Arkansas down 21-7, Walter Sharpe scored and was given a free throw on a foul by Dontell Jefferson.

Heath thought Sharpe traveled first and as the media timeout began, he stalked the official around the huddle and had to be pulled back into the huddle by Brewer.

Heath still came back after the ref and as the crowd urged for a technical, Brewer and assistant Ronnie Thompson had to pull him away again with Thompson giving the ref a sheepish grin.

With 25.3 seconds left and Arkansas down 33-19, Rashard Sullivan was called for an illegal screen as the Hogs tried to get the last shot. After Mississippi State called a timeout, Heath continued to get after Kerry Sitton until he told Heath, "That's enough. I'm warning you."

Heath stood by his actions after the game and called the officiating a "charade" and "a joke," which may lead to a call from the SEC this week.

No matter what Heath's issues with the officiating, no one could argue the officials cost Arkansas the game despite Mississippi State's 39-12 edge in free throw attempts.

Arkansas wasn't nearly aggressive enough to get to the line with Darian Townes fouled out six minutes into the second half and Charles Thomas ineffective in 13 minutes with 4 turnovers and 2 points.

The Razorbacks settled for jumper after jumper and guards Olu Famutimi (2 of 9), Brewer (3 of 10), Eric Ferguson (2 of 12), Modica (4 of 11) and Mike Jones (3 of 13) combined to go 14 of 55 from the field, accounting for nearly 80 percent of Arkansas' attempts.

On his way to the team bus Saturday, Modica said the Razorbacks are sticking together.

"There's not a lot of arguing and bickering," Modica said. "Guys are just trying to hold each other up and be accountable to each other. We realize that losing this game today was a team effort and it's always going to be a team effort. We just have to continue to hold together and try to build on what we have here."

Modica agreed Arkansas was at square one offensively and had to make a better effort to get an inside-outside attack going.

Heath yanked Brewer once in the second half after shooting a long 3-pointer while Townes had good position on the block.

"We have to get to the point where we're throwing it inside on a consistent level so we can open things up on the outside," Modica said. "Darian did a good job, but unfortunately he didn't get to stay in the game a lot."

Whatever the cure, and Heath said it's as simple as "heart", the Razorbacks need a dose fast before playing at LSU, winners of two straight, on Wednesday.

"We have to get ourselves together," Modica said.


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