FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — University of Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman was surprised to hear after Missouri's 81-68 victory over the Razorbacks on Saturday that his team shot 8 of 30 on layups, according to the UA's Statbroadcast system.
"That's probably about five more than I thought we were," Musselman said.
Turns out, Musselman's math was dead on.
An adjusted Statbroadcast total has the Razorbacks shooting 3 of 23 on layups against Missouri.
Making 13.0% of attempted layups was the lowest for Arkansas (9-1, 1-1 SEC) this season, surpassing 25.0% (1 of 4) when the Razorbacks beat Southern 79-44.
In games in which the Razorbacks attempted more than 10 layups, their second-worst shooting was 30.7% (4 of 13) in a 72-60 victory over Texas-Arlington.
According to Statbroadcast, when the Razorbacks have attempted a layup, the ball has gone through the basket a little less than half the time — 46.2% (78 of 169) — this season.
"It's been a problem with this team all year, our shots around the rim," Musselman said. "It's not just one game. It got magnified in one game."
Missed layups stood out against Missouri because Arkansas shot 26.8% from the field (19 of 71) and suffered its first loss.
The Razorbacks gave themselves plenty of opportunities to miss layups in the game with 16 offensive rebounds.
Musselman stressed that kicking the ball back outside was a better option for his team on many of its second-chance opportunities rather than trying to score against the more physical Tigers.
"When you get an offensive rebound and there's three guys with their arms up, you don't try to shoot through six arms," he said. "You pass the ball out and you spray it around for a quick three."
Dru Smith, a 6-3 senior guard, was credited with Missouri's lone blocked shot against Arkansas.
"Missouri only had one blocked shot. That's one more than I had in the game," Musselman said. "I'm not sure why you miss layups if they had one blocked shot.
"Now you're going against a team in Tennessee that does block shots."
Arkansas plays No. 9 Tennessee at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.
The Vols feature last season's SEC defensive player of the year in 6-6 Yves Pons — who had nine blocked shots in the first two SEC games — and 6-9 John Fulkerson.
"If I was going to pick a game I thought we were going to miss layups, it'd be Tennessee," Musselman said. "So we've quickly got to figure out how to score around the rim."
The Razorbacks had issues away from the rim as well in the Missouri game as they shot 16 of 48 (33.3%) on their other field goal attempts, including 7 of 28 on three-pointers.
Connor Vanover, a 7-3 sophomore known for his perimeter shooting skills, shot 0 of 11 against the Tigers, including 0 of 5 from beyond the arc. He's 1 of 11 on three-pointers in SEC games.
"It's not just Connor," Musselman said. "It's a lot of guys that have to improve shot selection and improve in sharing the basketball."
Desi Sills shot 1 of 10 against Missouri. JD Notae led the Razorbacks with 19 points, but was 6 of 18 and had some out-of-control drives. Moses Moody was 4 of 8 on three-pointers, but he missed his 7 shots inside the arc.
Musselman said he doesn't want the Razorbacks playing tentatively on offense, but they need to make better decisions.
"I've always wanted our teams to play with great freedom offensively and then they pay it back by really putting forth great effort on the glass and defensively," he said. "But I've sent a lot of text messages, made a lot of phone calls, had some individual meetings with guys face-to-face.
"Our shot selection has got to improve and us sharing the basketball has got to improve."
Musselman said that last season Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe — who averaged an SEC-leading 22.0 points and 16.9, respectively, for Arkansas, and are now on NBA rosters — didn't always take high-percentage shots.
"I thought you could argue we had some questionable shots with Isaiah and Mason, but those guys shot the ball at a really high clip," Musselman said. "If guys are going to take difficult shots, you have to shoot them at a high percentage."
Musselman said this is the first time in five years he's "really dug deep into shot selection" with multiple players.
"We played a little bit selfish," Musselman said of Arkansas having seven assists against Missouri. "Those were our players' words, not even my words.
"Those were some of the things that our guys have talked about. So we've got some areas to clean up for sure."
Musselman said he didn't want to use the word "selfish," that he prefers saying the Razorbacks have taken ill-advised shots.
"I think we have a group of really high-character student-athletes that want to win," he said. "That's why we won our first nine games, and we didn't have any hiccups.
"Our guys handled their business, and then we played really bad against a really good team. We lost, so that's what happens. When you play against better teams, you've got to really make extra passes."
Musselman was asked whether there is anything the Razorbacks can do to improve their percentage of hitting layups. He repeated the question, then said, "Certainly," and brought up Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek.
"I think that's why you have a coaching staff," Musselman said. "I'm sure Hunter doesn't want me just to tell him that we're not going to improve when we're 3-for-whatever on layups.
"I mean, I have to lay out a blueprint. I've talked to everyone on the staff. Knock off the Eurosteps, knock off the spin. Like, shoot a 2-foot jump stop and put the ball in the hole. Go old school on your finishes around the rim.
"So yes, I have addressed technique. Yes, I have addressed knock off the degree-of-difficulty layups."
Arkansas (9-1, 1-1) vs. No. 9 Tennessee (7-1, 1-1)
Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tennessee; Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST
BOTTOM LINE: No. 9 Tennessee looks to give Arkansas its fifth straight loss against ranked opponents. Arkansas' last win vs a ranked opponent came against the then-No. 19 LSU Tigers 90-89 on Feb. 2, 2019. Tennessee lost 71-63 to Alabama in its most recent game.
SUPER SENIORS: Arkansas has benefited heavily from its seniors. Moses Moody, JD Notae, Justin Smith and Jalen Tate have collectively accounted for 59 percent of the team's scoring this year and 64 percent of all Razorbacks points over the team's last five games.
MIGHTY MOSES: Moody has connected on 42 percent of the 50 3-pointers he's attempted and has gone 9 for 19 over his last three games. He's also made 78 percent of his foul shots this season.
ASSIST-TO-FG RATIO: The Volunteers have recently converted buckets via assists more often than the Razorbacks. Tennessee has 37 assists on 76 field goals (48.7 percent) across its previous three contests while Arkansas has assists on 35 of 77 field goals (45.5 percent) during its past three games.
STIFLING DEFENSE: Tennessee has held opposing teams to 55 points per game this season, the second-lowest figure among all Division I teams.
(Bottom Line courtesy of the Associated Press)