The No. 12 Arkansas Razorbacks have fallen from unbeaten grace as the unranked Oklahoma Sooners led by double-digits for much of the game en route to an 88-66 blowout win on Saturday at the BOK Center in Tulsa.
Arkansas (9-1) failed to match the program’s best start through 10 games in a season that was last achieved by the 1993-94 Hoop Hogs who won their first 10 games on their way winning the national championship.
Oklahoma built a couple of 15-point leads in the first half before Arkansas battled back with a 15-4 run — 13-2 to end the first half and a mid-range jumper by sophomore guard Devo Davis to start the second half — to pull within 4, but the Sooners rattled off an 11-0 run to go back up by 15 points, 50-35, early in the final 20 minutes. The Hogs would scrap within a 3-point deficit, 57-54, on 3-of-3 free throw shooting by senior guard JD Notae at the 9:55 mark, but the Sooners outscored the Razorbacks 31-12 from there to win in a rout.
“They (OU) were opportunistic in making plays when they had to,” said Arkansas assistant coach Gus Argenal during what is typically Eric Musselman’s post-game interview, but Musselman drew two technical fouls, was ejected, and had to be restrained and escorted off the court by his assistant coaches with 3:30 to play and his team down by 15 points.
“We would cut the lead, and they’d make a play, a big stop, a big shot,” Argenal explained. “So, that’s how the game went. Credit to them, credit to their staff and how they prepared for us.”
Oklahoma was the better team at both ends of the floor throughout, making 54.9% of its field goal attempts (61.9% in the second half), including hitting a blistering 13-of-22 from 3 (59.1%) for the game against an Arkansas team that has been weak defending the 3-line this season. OU made 19-of-22 at the free throw line (86.4%).
Defensively, the Sooners held the Hogs to 34.4% overall field goal shooting, including 7-of-24 from 3 (29.2%), and OU was plus-7 rebounding (36-29) as the Hogs lost their first glass battle of the season. OU also won assists (18-10), fastbreak points (12-6), points-in-the-paint (24-22), and steals (7-6).
The Sooners had all five starters in double-figure scoring led by senior guard Elijah Harkless’ 21 points to go with 11 rebounds and 4 assists. Big man Tanner Groves had 16 points; Duke transfer Jordan Goldwire had 14 points, a game-high 6, and a game-high 3 steals; forward Jalen Hill notched 11 points and 8 rebounds; and senior guard Umoja Gibson finished with 12 points (4-of-7 from 3).
Davis scored a career-high 26 points (9-of-21 field goals, including 4-of-8 from 3, and 4-of-4 free throws) to go with 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 39 minutes for the Razorbacks. Notae ended up with 13 points (3-of-14 field goals, including 2-of-7 from 3, and 5-of-5 free throws), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block in 39 minutes.
No other Hog scored in double-figures. Arkansas made 17-of-18 from the foul line (94.4%) and the Razorbacks won turnovers (16-14), points-off-turnovers (24-17), offensive rebounds (9-5), second-chance-points (6-2), and blocks (3-1). Each team’s bench scored 14 points.
The Hogs finished the three-game, out-of-state, neutral-site portion of their non-conference schedule 2-1, including 1-1 against Big 12 teams. The Sooners (8-2) now have two wins over ranked SEC teams, which includes a 7-point home win over then-No. 14 Florida on Dec. 1
Arkansas dropped to 16-13 in its all-time series with Oklahoma.
Musselman fell to 5-3 against high-major non-conference competition at Arkansas, including 4-3 in matchups played away from home. He’s 54-20 overall at Arkansas, which includes a 32-4 record against non-conference opponents as well as a 27-1 mark against low-to-mid-major foes.
Musselman is now 0-2 in head-to-head coaching matchups with first-year OU coach Porter Moser, whose Loyola-Chicago team defeated Musselman’s Nevada team in the 2018 NCAA tournament Sweet 16.
“Those numbers — 55% (overall field goal shooting percentage), 59 (percent) from the 3, 86 (percent from the free throw line — we have to do a better job of making them miss,” Argenal said. “Sometimes it just comes down to man-to-man, and making somebody miss a shot. Whether it’s a hand in the face, whether it’s an extra help, a stunt on the ball, you have to make those effort plays.
“And really, the disappointing part for us is we played hard, but when you play in a game like this in an NCAA (tournament) environment you have to play even harder. You have to have a special level of energy, and we didn’t have that tonight.”
Next up for Arkansas are three more games in December — against Hofstra in North Little Rock on Dec. 18, at home against Elon on Dec. 21, and at Mississippi State in the SEC opener for both teams on Dec. 29.
Musselman started the quintet of Davis, Notae, Jaylin Williams, Au’Diese Toney, and Connor Vanover for the ninth consecutive game.