A lot of talk about this game will probably center around all the bad road games Arkansas has played in recent years, especially the way the Razorbacks played in those last three games away from Bud Walton last season.
But this was different. In those games, the Hogs couldn't hit a shot. They'd go through long stretches without scoring a point. Against Iowa State, the Hogs' shooting percentage hovered around 50% for the entire game, and they even won the rebounding battle - which was not expected.
The problem was the Razorbacks couldn't stop Iowa State in the first half even if Tusk's tusks were at stake. The Cyclones shot 64% in the first 20 minutes and Arkansas forced just three turnovers. It was a terrible defensive performance, but you also have to give the Cyclones credit for hitting all those shots. They came into the game hitting 34.4% of their threes, but against Arkansas, they actually made more than half, hitting 10 of 19.
Arkansas was hitting a lot of jumpers in the first half, but they weren't attacking the rim, and as such, they didn't attempt a free throw until Manuale Watkins drew a foul on a layup attempt with about a minute to go before halftime. Unfortunately, he missed them, letting the Hogs go into the break with 0 made free throws.
This might shock you, but winning against a good team on the road while making 0 free throws, causing only 3 turnovers, and letting them shoot over 64% from the field is not a recipe for success.
The good news is that this is college basketball, and a road loss to a top team isn't going to hurt Arkansas much. It's just an opportunity they couldn't cash in. Hopefully, it's more of a reality check after a couple of weeks of tremendous hype that's led to the #18 ranking. They'll have to win at Clemson on Sunday to have any chance of staying in the polls. All their goals are still very much in front of them.
The other good news is that other than Kentucky, there may not be another team on Arkansas' schedule that good. Rupp Arena is certainly the only other building they'll play in as hostile as Hilton Coliseum.
The second half of the game was mostly much better. The Razorbacks clawed their way back to within 11 points a couple of times, and once had the ball with the chance to cut the lead to single digits but Rashad Madden was called for traveling in the backcourt and the Hogs didn't get another opportunity.
Anthlon Bell struggled on the road again but the other four starters all finished in double digits. Bobby Portis had another solid performance away from Bud Walton. He finished with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting and 8 rebounds. If anything, the team needed to feed him more often. Alandise Harris came back from his bruised foot for his best game of the season. He took some ugly shots to start the game but closed strong with 15 points. Madden had 13 thanks to finding a way to the free throw line late, and Michael Qualls had 10.
Arkansas didn't get much help from the bench, as they only totaled 16 points. Jacorey Williams hit a few shots early but foul trouble kept him on the bench.
Unfortunately, Bryce Dejean-Jones and Georges Niang were unstoppable. They combined for 53 points on 17-20 shooting and kept the Hogs from making a serious run.
The Clemson game will be the last road game until SEC play next month. It's a game Arkansas needs to win. Hopefully they'll make a pit stop in Fayetteville and pick up the defense that never made it to Ames.