It was a cold, wintery night in Minneapolis, Minn., and the Arkansas Razorbacks carried that chill into Williams Arena with them on Tuesday night.
The Hogs shot a cool 42 percent from the field and an absolutely frigid 12.5 percent from the three-point line in an 85-71 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The victory moved Minnesota to 5-0 on the season, while the Razorbacks fell to 3-1.
The Golden Gophers used a 34-8 run in the first half to build an insurmountable halftime lead over the Hogs that shot just 28 percent from the field in the first half.
However, shooting wasn’t Arkansas only problem. The Razorbacks, who looked out of sync the entire night, turned the ball over 21 times and had just eight assists. The Hogs looked dead-legged at both ends of the floor with minimal offensive movement and a one-on-one offensive mentality. Defensively, the Hogs appeared a step or two slow in their rotation, yielding open looks and dribble penetration.
The Golden Gophers outhustled the Hogs and overwhelmed them with 66.7 percent accuracy from the three-point line in the first half. Minnesota held a 42-25 halftime lead.
The Razorbacks shot better in the second half, but still played poorly. The best thing that can be said about the loss it that it gives the Razorbacks a blueprint for what they need to improve upon at this early juncture of the season.
A key offensively will be to learn that the offense needs to run through Moses Kingsley, the preseason pick for SEC MVP, who has not yet performed up to his reputation through four games.
The Razorbacks never looked better on offense than on back-to-back first-half possessions where they worked the ball inside to Kingsley, and he scored both times. But after that success, the Hogs never worked as hard again to get him the ball.
That being said, Kingsley was complicit, too, because he did not work to establish position and demand the basketball like a big man should. He settled too easily for jump shots instead of going to work down low.
Kingsley might need to look at game tape from the 2014-15 season, and take note of how hard Bobby Portis worked to garner inside position. Successful big men have to want the ball, and they have to battle for that inside real estate like their life depends on it.
The other Hogs will find that if Kingsley gets his offensive game right, their opportunities will only increase and come easier.
Credit should go to Richard Pitino’s Golden Gophers for playing well on defense, but the Razorbacks resorted too quickly to one-on-one play. The Hogs don’t need heroes; they need talented players who fit into a team concept.
Both squads looked tight in the early going, but as Minnesota settled in, the Razorbacks play became even more fractured and erratic.
With seven first-year Razorbacks, some growing pains were to be expected, particularly in their first road game of the season. However, the loss to Minnesota was a mess.
The Razorbacks have five days to attempt to work out some kinks before a busy week of play. The Hogs play three games in six days starting with Mount Saint Mary on Nov. 28, Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 1, and Austin Peay on Dec. 3. All three are at Bud Walton Arena.