Hogs lament lack of free throws in loss to Duke

SAN FRANCISCO — Arkansas coach Eric Musselman thanked his players for not settling for jump shots on Saturday against No. 2-seeded Duke in the Western Region Finals at Chase Center .

The third-year Razorbacks coach said they were aggressive enough to head for the rim after putting the ball on the ground. For him, it was nothing out of the ordinary and a key part of what made Arkansas tough to beat in 2021-22.

But more often than not, luck was not on the side of the Razorbacks in those instances in a 78-69 loss to the Blue Devils in the Elite Eight. Personal fouls were even at 15-15 for the game, but Musselman expected his team to get to the free-throw line with greater consistency.

“I mean, we took three free throws in the first half,” Musselman said. “And it’s like a post-up team never getting to post, or a three-point shooting team never going for a three-ball. When we got to the line, we didn’t miss. C is our game.”

Arkansas finished 11 of 11 at the line. Senior winger Stanley Umude led the team with four attempts and forward Jaylin Williams three.

The 11 free throw attempts were Arkansas’ second-fewest in a game this season. The Razorbacks hit 4 of 7 foul shots in the 99-73 road win over Georgia on Feb. 2.

“We’re one of the best in the country at (attempting free throws),” said Musselman, whose last two Arkansas teams have finished in the top five in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC in free throws. performed and attempted. .

“They did a good job, I guess, on verticality.”

JD Notae, the aggressive, offensive Razorbacks guard who hit a team-high 155 free throws this season and converted at a 77.4 percent rate, fouls Duke twice and attempts just two free throws . According to data from KenPom, Notae drew 4.7 fouls per 40 minutes played during the season.

Saturday marked the second straight game in which Notae shot two free throws. He attempted 16 wins in the first and second rounds for Arkansas over Vermont and New Mexico State in Buffalo, NY

Notae said it was difficult for him and the Razorbacks to play through similar contact that had drawn whistles for much of the season.

“When you’re playing against a team like Duke, you can’t expect to get those calls,” Notae said as Musselman, posted to his right, laughed. ” It was hard. You just have to go there and finish.

Williams finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He was 8 of 15 on two-point attempts.

As a team, the Razorbacks missed 16 of 27 layups, according to StatBroadcast. The Blue Devils were 16 of 24 on layups.

“We just have to go out there and finish with the contact or whatever,” Williams said. “We have to finish them.”

According to data from KenPom, Arkansas posted its second-lowest free throw rate (free throw attempts/field goal attempts) of the season against the Blue Devils at 17.7 percent. The Razorbacks beat Gonzaga 74-68 on Thursday despite recording his third-worst free throw percentage (19.4%).

But this time around, Duke’s ability to make Arkansas pay for inefficiency on the edge with inside scores and timely three-point shots was too much to overcome.

The Blue Devils made four threes. The first two came in an 8-0 run that gave Duke a 45-33 halftime lead, and the last two were back-to-back by AJ Griffin to give the Blue Devils an 18 lead. points – their biggest game. – in the second half.

Arkansas’ missed chances and no inside whistle contributed to key changes in the game. After Williams cut the Razorbacks’ deficit to 53-48 with 13:19 to go, Duke went on a 10-0 run and took firm control.

“They ran a corner play, a little mid-post screen for (Paolo Banchero), and he either converted or was fouled,” Musselman said. “We went down the other end and we didn’t convert. Hence the 10-0.

“We were beaten by a better team today. I thought Duke was phenomenal. I would be surprised if they don’t play to win a national championship.

Christy J. Olson