Hoop Hogs absorb their worst loss to Ole Miss since joining the SEC

Ole Miss guard Brandon Murray (left) is guarded by Arkansas guard Layden Blocker on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (Ole Miss Athletics)

If matters weren’t deflating enough for Razorback fans with their beloved Hogs already swooning in SEC play, Arkansas faced the most talented Ole Miss Rebel basketball squad in years Wednesday without the Hogs’ best player Tramon Mark, whom ESPNU reported was suffering from a migraine headache.

Compounding matters, the Hogs’ most athletic player Trevon Brazile missed the second half of the game because of a knee injury, which he tweaked earlier in the week in practice.

The Hogs weren’t going to win the contest played in the Rebels’ SJB Pavilion, but they might have been able to put up more of a fight had arguably their two best players suited up for the entire game.

But, that was not the situation in Oxford, Miss. Wednesday.

The Rebels routed the Hogs, 77-51, in one of the worst pig-killings since William Golding’s 1954 debut novel “The Lord of the Flies.” The Razorbacks did not lead at any point in Wednesday’s game.

It was the Razorbacks’ fifth double-digit loss in SEC play, and their worst loss to Ole Miss since the Rebels clubbed Arkansas, 117-66, in a non-conference game back in December of 1973.

The Hogs are now 10-9 on the season and 1-5 in SEC play.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: Kentucky
When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27
Where: Fayetteville, Ark.
TV: ESPN

Next 5 games

Jan. 31 – at Missouri, 7:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Feb. 3 – at LSU, 11 a.m. (ESPN/2)
Feb. 10 – Georgia, 5 p.m. (SEC Network)
Feb. 14 – Tennessee,8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Feb. 17 – at Mississippi State, 1 p.m. (ESPNU)

The Rebel victory halted a two-game losing streak for coach Chris Beard’s Ole Miss squad, which had lost back-to-back games to LSU and Auburn before pummeling the Razorbacks.

Ole Miss improved to 16-3 overall and evened their SEC record to 3-3.

Unfortunately, the outlook doesn’t look any more sunny for the Hogs with No.6 Kentucky up next at 5 p.m. Saturday in Walton Arena, and with road trips to Missouri and LSU next week.

The Wildcats did absorb a 79-62 thumping at South Carolina on Tuesday night, but that should have John Calipari’s squad that much more determined to join in on the bullying of Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks, who are suffering through a miserable season.

Certainly Stan Heath and John Pelphrey rolled out some mediocre to bad teams during their tenures as the Razorbacks head basketball coach. Nolan Richardson’s final team in 2002 never found a way to get over the hump in a season in which he was dismissed before the end of the regular season.

Even Richardson’s first team, which had off-the-court issues as well as its struggles on the hardwood, put up a better fight than what Musselman’s hard-luck Hogs have done so far this year in SEC play.

Granted the SEC is generally considered to be the best conference in college basketball this season, but the Razorbacks have proven to be noncompetitive in every SEC game so far other than their one-point home victory over Texas A&M last week.

With the loss to Ole Miss Wednesday night, the Hogs average margin of loss in SEC play has ballooned to 20.6 points per game.

Musselman, who has expressed his disappointment with the Razorbacks’ apathetic play in recent losses, saw a bit more desire in his Hogs despite the fact the Rebels steamrolled them.

“I actually thought we played fairly hard tonight,” Musselman said on the UA radio broadcast after the game. “We just got outplayed, outmanned one through five. I think the effort was better than it has been, but Ole Miss took it to us in a lot of areas.”

The Hogs fell behind quickly,10-2, before the game’s first timeout and never really threatened. It was a washout from the start.

The Razorbacks shot poorly from the field at 33 percent compared to the Rebels’ 47 percent and 23 percent from 3-point range as compared to Ole Miss’ 37 percent.

The Rebels out rebounded the Hogs 43-38 and forced Arkansas into 14 turnovers compared to Ole Miss’ 8.

Jaylen Murray led the Rebels with 21 points, while Matthew Murrell added 18. Allen Flanigan of Little Rock led Ole Miss with 11 rebounds.

Khalif Battle led the Razorbacks with 11 points, while Joseph Pinion added 10.

Razorback senior Devo Davis did not score and only played eight minutes.

In a different day, I might guess that the senior’s role diminished so that younger players could gain experience, and maybe that did happen. Freshman Layden Blocker played 18 minutes and sophomore Pinion played 21.

However, with so many seniors on this squad, one has to guess Musselman is going to almost totally remake his roster for next season through the transfer portal. He almost has to, with so many players moving this summer.

There’s playing time to be had at Arkansas needs to be the message that’s broadcasted loud and clear to talent all across the nation.

Mathematically Arkansas could make a run at an NIT bid, but it’s going to take some serious work on the part of the players, who did show a bit more desire at Oxford than they did last Saturday in their loss to South Carolina in Walton Arena.

But honestly, it looks like the Razorbacks are just playing out the string with 2/3s of their regular-season SEC games still to play.