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Hogs fall to 0-3 in SEC with loss at Florida


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Arkansas' woes on the basketball court continued Saturday in Gainesville with Florida taking a one-sided 90-68 win.
Florida (11-5, 1-2) and Arkansas (9-7, 0-3) were both seeking their first conference win of the season. It was never close. The Razorbacks took a 7-5 lead with 17:12 remaining in the opening half, but the Gators quickly turned that around and never looked back. Eric Musselman obviously wasn't pleased with the result and what he has seen through three SEC games.
"We’re through three SEC games and we’re not playing," Musselman said. "We’ve been here four years and we’ve been a team that’s been super tough minded, we’ve been a team that competes, we’ve been a team that battles. We’ve been a team that has grit. We have not done this year at all."
For the first time this season, Musselman even opted to use a zone defense. It helped slow down the Gators momentarily then they made adjustments.
"I haven’t played zone at all since I’ve been in college," Musselman said. "But we’re not guarding anybody one-on-one, so the thought process was to put in zone in yesterday to try to help us with dribble-drives. It helped for a little bit as a change of pace. It maybe slowed Florida down for a little bit.
"But just as with any zone and man, you’ve got to be able to guard either the guy in your area or the guy you’re assigned to, wither it’s man or zone. Our inability to play defense, to take away the three really doesn’t matter."
"We gave up nine threes the other night (9 of 27) playing Georgia when we were man to man. We went zone tonight and gave up nine threes. We need to play like our past teams have. This group just has not grasped concepts whether it’s man or you put in a zone."
Freshman Layden Blocker and sophomore Joseph Pinion, a former standout at Morrilton High School, had impressive showings off the bench. Blocker had 14 points, four rebounds and an assist in 24 minutes. Pinion added 12 points, two rebounds and one assist in 22 minutes. Both drew praise from Musselman.
"Really happy with the play of Laydon Blocker and Joseph Pinion," Musselman said. "Those guys, one of them’s plus-2, one of them’s minus-1. I just thought they played hard. I thought they played the right way. And their numbers are indicative of that.
"That’s why their plus-minuses are what it is. And it wasn’t like they just played insignificant minutes. Those guys did play 21 minutes and 24 minutes. So I was proud of our two young guys on how they battled."
With their play on Saturday and many of the more experienced players struggling particularly since beginning of conference play could that pair see their playing time increase?
"We’re trying everything," Musselman said. "We’ve tried different starting lineups. The one constant with Layden Blocker is that he plays really hard. And the one constant that Joseph Pinion has exhibited through two years is he will try, and he will try and run our offense and try to do things within the framework of who we are.
"Sometimes athletically Joseph might have a matchup that’s not advantageous, but he’s got heart, he’s got character. And he’s a guy that tries and plays up to his ability."
Musselman feels that at 9-7 he has to shake things up as the hole continues to be deeper.
"I think we’ve changed up a lot of things a lot," Musselman said. "I mean, I think we’ve changed the starting lineup. We’ve tried different things. But certainly those two young men tonight, because they played hard, we’ll probably look to go to them earlier than we have in some of these past games. At some point you’re going to play some guys. Certainly tonight that’s what I looked to do.
"Younger players, when you’re not playing like you hope, that’s that the next thing you’re going to turn to as one of the alternatives after you’ve gone through about 15 other alternatives. Which we’ve tried. I mean, we’ve tried a whole bunch of stuff. We’ve already mentioned we’d never played a zone in 10 years."
Blocker was pleased with the opportunity for extended minutes and talked about the play of him and Pinion.
"Honestly, I think the group — the second group he put out there — we did pretty good, especially in that first half, second half," Blocker said. "You know, we came in there, bright energy. Got some stops, some steals. Got some key buckets. Joseph Pinion, he hit some key shots when he came in. And just overall as a team, I just feel like the energy. We came with that energy off the bench. And that's what we need in the long run."
Tramon Mark had 12 points, four rebounds and two assists. Jalen Graham 10 points and five rebounds. Trevon Brazile had seven points and a team-leading seven boards. Jeremiah Daveport had 13 points, but Musselman wasn't impressed with what the Cincinnati transfer did beyond scoring.
"Yeah, I thought in the first half JD did a phenomenal job offensively," Musselman said. "But the theme of the game, you guys, was rebounding. That was the one thing… I told the team that I thought if we out-rebounded them, we would win the game. That was the sole focus that we could try to control and JD played 25 minutes and didn’t have a rebound, and then his plus-minus is minus-25 while he was on the floor.
"But he did a great job offensively. He scored 13 points in the first half. The things with JD is he’s got energy, he’s got a good vibe about himself. He’s a really good young man that is playing with effort and energy. It’s just tonight, we needed rebounding from everybody. But I did think offensively, he stretched the floor out. I thought he played with great confidence offensively, as well, in that first half. And he had three assists. We only had eight, so he had three of them."
The Gators had five players scoring in double figures. Riley Kugel was the leader with 20 points. Tyrese Samuel added 17 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Zyon Pullin chipped in 15 points while Will Richard added 13 and Walter Clayton Jr. 11.
Arkansas will return home on Tuesday night to host Texas A&M at 8 p.m. and televised on the SEC Network. Texas A&M (10-6, 1-2) defeated Kentucky 97-92 in overtime on Saturday.