Razorbacks Find Finishing Difficult

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas has lost six consecutive games. In four of its five defeats, though, the Razorbacks have led at halftime.

So this losing streak hasn't been filled with absolute frustration. Sure, the Hogs aren't thrilled with being 1-10 in the Southeastern Conference or with residing in the Western Division cellar. But they have played well to consistently themselves into a position to win.

Now comes the tough part: actually winning.

"We've stressed all year long to make sure you take care of details," said Arkansas assistant coach Rob Evans, filling in for still-sick coach John Pelphrey at Thursday's news conference. "When you look at the SEC or any other league, most of the games are going to be competitive and come down to four or five possessions.

"You've got to take care of details in those possessions — block outs on free throws, keeping people out of the lane when the score is (close). And we've had some breakdowns in that regard."

Arkansas, which travels Saturday to South Carolina, has held leads in seven of its 11 defeats this season. Still, no Razorback want to claim any moral victories.

The continuing trend of taking, and then blowing, leads has worn on Pelphrey's players.

"It's hard to take in," freshman guard Rotnei Clarke said. "I've had a couple of games where I went in to the locker room, and it feels like a game we should've won. That's like (Wednesday) night (against LSU). We were in position to win. We didn't. And it's tough to not come through."

Lately, most of the Hogs' losses have devastating them, just like Wednesday's 72-69 loss to the 23rd-ranked Tigers, who lead the Western Division by two games. Early in the season, Arkansas suffered convincing losses at Florida and Ole Miss.

But the past few weeks, besides Saturday's loss to Kentucky, the Razorbacks have left themselves a decent chance heading into the final few minutes of games.

Unfortunately for the Hogs, they've experienced three complete meltdown finishes.

The Razorbacks didn't score in the final 6 minutes, 35 seconds of their 73-51 loss to Auburn on Jan. 24. Those same Tigers outscored Arkansas 16-2 over the same time span in the Hogs' 75-62 loss at Auburn on Feb. 11. And the Hogs faltered down the stretch Wednesday night, losing 72-69 after LSU's 11-1 game-ending spurt over the final 4:16.

Evans, who insisted Arkansas' coaches would continue to be "very demanding," said it's hard not to recognize Arkansas' youth as a factor. Getting outrebounded, hurrying shots, committing silly fouls. These are all causes of the Hogs' late-game struggles, as well as common traits of a youthful basketball team.

"Often times when we have those breakdowns, we might have three or four young kids on the court — freshmen," Evans said. One thing I've always found is when you have a young kid and someone says, ‘Well it's at the end of the year, they aren't freshmen anymore. They're still young kids."

Arkansas freshman forward Michael Sanchez said the Razorbacks were as motivated as ever to shake their inexperienced label.

"That age thing can't even be used about us anymore," freshman forward Michael Sanchez said. "We've been in enough of these to know what we need to do to win."

Now, Arkansas must start showing that to be true.

Saturday's Ticket

Arkansas at South Carolina

When: 6 p.m.

Where: Colonial Life Arena, South Carolina

TV: None

Radio: KEZA-FM 107.9, KKEG-FM 92.1, KUOA-AM 1290, FM 105.3

Records: Arkansas Razorbacks, 13-11, 1-10 Southeastern Conference; South Carolina Gamecocks, 18-6, 7-4

Coaches: Arkansas, John Pelphrey (2nd season); South Carolina, Darrin Horn (1st season)

Series: Arkansas leads 12-8 (South Carolina has won six of the past nine meetings)

Last Meeting: South Carolina beat Arkansas 70-66 on Jan. 16, 2008, in Fayetteville

Blown Leads

Arkansas has led in seven of its 11 defeats this season. The Razorbacks held halftime leads in four of their past five games. All five of those contests have ended in losses for Arkansas.

Opponent Biggest Arkansas Lead Final Score Of Loss

Missouri State 5-2 62-57

Mississippi State 41-37 70-56

at Ole Miss — 74-65

at Florida 20-13 80-65

Auburn — 73-51

at LSU — 79-69

Tennessee 17-8 74-72

at Mississippi State 32-19 86-77

at Auburn 23-14 75-62

Kentucky — 79-63

LSU 28-10 72-69

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