By Kevin McPherson

The 25th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks needed a defensive resurgence to have any chance to win on the road against unranked-but-offensive-elite Missouri on Wednesday while avoiding their worst start through the first six games of league play in 14 years, and though the Hoop Hogs were battle-worthy they continued their free fall in a 79-76 loss to the Tigers in Columbia, Mo.

The Hogs surrendered a 10-point lead in the final 5:28 as Mizzou lived at the free throw line down the stretch, going 15-of-16 at the foul line in the last 4:51 of the game compared to Arkansas’ 2-of-2 effort on freebies in the same span. Arkansas suffered 21 turnovers compared to only 12 for Mizzou as the Tigers were plus-18 in points-off-turnovers (31-13). Four Hogs fouled out — Jordan Walsh, Makhi Mitchell, Devo Davis, and Kamani Johnson — and though Arkansas was plus-19 on the glass (42-23) and plus-6 in offensive rebounds (13-7) it equated to only a plus-5 edge in second-chance-points (8-3).

Mizzou collected 13 steals and was plus-32 in bench scoring (48-16) and plus-5 in fastbreak scoring (9-4). The Tigers shot 22-of-49 from the field (44.9%), including 5-of-20 from 3 (25.0%), while going 30-of-40 at the free throw line (75.0%).

The Hogs made 23-of-50 from the field (46.0%), including 7-of-17 from 3 (41.2%), and a sizzling 23-of-26 from the free throw line (88.5%) while attempting 14 fewer free throws than the Tigers.

Mizzou had three players in double-figure scoring — Kobe Brown with 17 points, DeAndre Gholston with 16 points, and Sean East II with 12 points.

Davis led four Hogs in double-figures with 18 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 5 turnovers in 39 minutes before fouling out. Anthony Black had 15 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and 5 turnovers in 39 minutes. Ricky Council IV had 13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist, and 3 turnovers in 29 minutes. Walsh had 12 points (4-of-4 field goals, including 2-of-2 from 3, and 2-of-2 free throws), 2 rebounds, and 1 turnover in 13 minutes before fouling out. Mitchell and Johnson each scored 7 points and combined for 16 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, and 3 turnovers before each fouled out. Freshman guard Derrian Ford had 4 points (1-of-1 field goals and 2-of-2 free throws) and 1 turnover in 9 minutes off the bench.

Arkansas (12-6, 1-5 SEC) has lost four consecutive games as part of a 5-losses-in-6-games skid to open league play, a pitiful stretch that last happened on former Hog coach John Pelphrey’s watch while opening the 2008-09 slate of league games (the ’08-09 Hogs would go on to finish 2-14 in SEC play).

These ’22-23 Razorbacks remained winless in true road games on the season (0-4, all in league games as part of a 4-5 record in all games played away from their home at Bud Walton Walton Arena in Fayetteville). They were coming off back-to-back-to-back double-digit-margin losses against unranked Vanderbilt on the road on Saturday (97-84), No. 4 Alabama at home on Jan. 11 (84-69), and then-No. 22 Auburn on the road on Jan. 7 (72-59).

“I thought our competitive nature tonight was at a high level,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman. “We’re just a basketball team that has not figured out how to win down the stretch. But from a competitive standpoint and playing hard — some of the things we’ve worked on the last few days — our fouling shooting was much improved at 89 (%). I just have never coached in a game where four players fouled out. And the opposition shoots 40 free throws. That’s 36 free throws, 36 free throws and 40. We haven’t caught any breaks. Every team’s got to try to create the breaks for themselves.

“Composure down the stretch, a young team, a lot of new faces. Critical turnovers around the rim. A critical turnover on the baseline. … The 21 turnovers in a basketball game is way too many. Again, we didn’t walk into the building tonight thinking that we’d have four players four out, but that’s what happened. Great job on backboards. Basically doubling them up on the glass. But the turnovers were too much. Then on the floor trying to keep our composure in close games has got to … All you can do is gain experience through this.”

The Razorback are tied for last place in the SEC with Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and LSU.

Missouri (14-4, 3-3 SEC) snapped its own two-game losing streak.

The Razorbacks dropped to 33-27 all-time against Mizzou as the Tigers ended a five-game losing streak in the series.

The loss against the Tigers (NET No. 51) counts as a Quad-1 result. Based on the current NCAA NET rankings, Arkansas (NET No. 27) is 2-4 in Q1 games that factor into their postseason resume (wins over San Diego State and Oklahoma in neutral-site games), and losses to Missouri on the road, Alabama at home, Auburn on the road, and Creighton at a neutral site). The Hogs are 1-2 in Q2 games (home win over Mizzou and road losses to LSU and Vandy) and 9-0 in Q3/4 games.

Musselman fell to 6-3 at Arkansas coaching against Missouri. He’s 85-34 overall at Arkansas, which includes a 37-27 record against SEC teams and a 6-2 mark spanning the last two NCAA Tournaments that culminated in back-to-back Elite Eight runs and back-to-back final national Top 10 rankings.

Next up for the Hoop Hogs is a return home for a game against Ole Miss on Saturday at BWA.

Musselman started the combination of Council, Black, Davis, Johnson, and Makhi Mitchell.