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Ole Miss Rebels 96, Arkansas Razorbacks 82: Missing Ref, Broadcasters, Hog Defense

13-4, 2-2

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

The only really good things to say about this game was that 1) the crowd was outstanding and 2) Bobby Portis had 23 points, Michael Qualls had 22 and Ky Madden had 22.

Everything else was bad.

The game started weird when one of the three officials had to sit the game out with an injured leg. There were some comedically awful calls, especially early in the game, but under no circumstances could anyone seriously make the argument that the refs cost them the game.

Arkansas couldn't stop Ole Miss whatsoever in the first half. The Rebels shot 74.1% from the field including 5-6 from three point range. The did slow down a bit in the second, finishing at 56.4% but it was over 60% until the last few minutes of the game when the game was essentially over.

The dirty little secret of this Razorback team (not so secret at the moment) is that the team hasn't been a great defensive team this season. Coming into the game, through three SEC games - which is admittedly a small sample size - Arkansas was last in the league in defending 3PT%, allowing 44.7% and that number will only go higher after this game. Inside the arc, Arkansas was 13th, allowing 51.4%, and that number will go up as well.

It's clear at this point in the season that Arkansas just wasn't able to replace the defensive effectiveness that some of last year's seniors took with them. The Hogs clearly miss Coty Clarke down low and all those guards on the perimeter. But it's not just that they lost those guys. This year's returning players have not been as good. Moses Kingsley's defensive rebounding and block numbers are significantly down. Portis is an average defensive rebounder for his size and his block numbers are down from last year as well. The rim is simply not as well protected as it was last year. They've always been great at forcing turnovers - consistently ranked among the nation's best in the category - but when that hasn't been available they've struggled to get stops. The Hogs only forced 3 in the first half.

The Razorbacks have been good enough offensively for most of this season to make up for that, but tonight there wasn't any help for Portis, Qualls, and Madden. Anthlon Bell did score 10 points, but the rest of the team was just 2-13. You expect your bench to have off nights on the road, but it was surprising to see that at home. Meanwhile, all nine of the Ole Miss players who played in the game scored points. Arkansas forced 11 turnovers, but couldn't get going in transition for a single fast break point. Not one.

Defense has been a confounding issue during the Anderson era. For all the talk of the "Fastest 40" and all the allusions to the 40 Minutes of Hell it brings with it, all four of Anderson's teams have been much better offensively than defensively. At least in Bud Walton, they've been able to put plenty of points on the board. 82 points is a good number. You should win in college basketball with 82 regulation points. But they haven't been very good defensive teams, and that's what's cost them more than anything else. When the offense hasn't been there, either at home and especially on the road, they haven't been good enough defensively to make up for it.

It remains to be seen how much this loss will hurt Arkansas. As a home loss, it surely hurts more than the Tennessee loss did. I still think the Razorbacks are on pace to make the NCAA Tournament relatively easily, but they have to fix some of these problems quickly. They're still at .500 in league play and have plenty of winnable games to go, and they'll get a shot to make up for it with Arkansas' final-ever game at the Tad Pad on Valentine's Day. But this loss hurts, of course.

Ole Miss' RPI was 68 coming into this game, so it's not a terrible loss. How bad it hurts will be determined by how they play going forward. Of course, a lot of not-so-bad losses still add up, and the Hogs need to stop the bleeding quickly.