FAYETTEVILLE - The issues with the Arkansas basketball program may now start to be called serious.

FAYETTEVILLE - The issues with the Arkansas basketball program may now start to be called serious.

Last week’s embarrassing trip through the state of Mississippi was actually outdone. Arkansas lost to Auburn, a team with just eight scholarship players, at Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday night, 90-86.

It was the team’s third straight loss, tied for a season-long, and it dropped them to two games below .500 for the first time this season. Most importantly for the short-term, it sent the Razorbacks a game closer to the cellar of the conference. The current last-place team, Missouri, does not qualify for the SEC Tournament and the 12th- and 13th-place teams must square off in a de facto play-in game, simply for the right to join the other 11 teams in single-elimination.

If the last three games were an indication, the Razorbacks (12-14, 5-8) are deserving of dropping into those slots.

Auburn (10-15, 4-9) had lost seven straight games, all by double-digits. Arkansas had lost to Mississippi State and Ole Miss by a combined 48 points its last two games. Those games were on the road, though. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson had neither reasons nor excuses Wednesday at home.

"Disappointed with our defensive effort, I really was. Lot of, lot of breakdowns. That was the instruction, ‘let’s be solid on defense.’ We had those breakdowns and they made us pay for them," Anderson said. "I really thought our guys would come out and relaly play with a sense of urgency."

Moses Kingsley stated it simplest.


The team’s biggest bugaboo throughout 2015-16 was what sent it to its doom Wednesday. Arkansas allowed Auburn 15 3-pointers, including three straight makes in about a 90-second span in the final three minutes. The Razorbacks’ one-point lead with 2:48 left turned into a five-point Auburn advantage with 1:16 left. Back-to-back 3-pointers by TJ Lang and a third from deep from Bryce Brown were the catalysts.

Still, Arkansas was playing one of the least-talented teams in the SEC. An atrocious free-throw shooting night (9 of 19) left Arkansas a chance with 30 seconds left, trailing 87-84. Anton Beard’s rushed 3 from the top clanged off, Auburn collected the rebound and Cinmeon Bowers made two free throws to seal it.

Lang would quibble with the assertion Auburn is lacking in talent, even with two non-scholarship players seeing significant minutes Wednesday.

"Our main mindset has been we have enough talent right now to win any game if we come out with amazing energy and outplay our opponent," Lang said. "We had been playing with good energy the past couple games, but didn’t make shots. Today it just came all together."

Lang scored 17 points and shot 5 of 6 from beyond the arc. Brown did one better, or four better, making 9 3-pointers, one short of the school record, and scored a career-high 27 points. It’s his first year of college basketball.

"Bryce Brown was a young man who had no SEC offers," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "He’s going to be a good player. He hasn’t done it quite like this, But he’s got great range, great feel. I thought we had six guys that played some of their best basketball."

It looked for a while Arkansas had fixed its biggest issue from the disastrous road trip of last week. The Razorbacks shot scored as many points in the first half Wednesday as they did the entire game against Mississippi State. Four players ultimately finished in double figures, led by Anthlon Bell’s 21 and Kingsley’s 20.

It just didn’t hold. Auburn committed 21 turnovers and shot 47 percent from the free throw line. But Arkansas made 57 percent of its tries from the line and allowed the Tigers to actually make 61 percent of its attempts from the floor. The Razorbacks also made just 19 of 31 free throw attempts, 61 percent.

There were more instances of comically bad play than there were sustained moments that impressed.

A 10-run Arkansas run early in the second half built the Razorbacks’ lead to six just five minutes into the half. It would extend to a 15-2 stretch 75 seconds later when Anthlon Bell finished a fast-break dunk to force an Auburn timeout. The Tigers had committed six turnovers in less than five minutes when Pearl signaled the referee.

His team responded, making its next five field goals and pulling back within three points, 63-60, with 11:36 left. It was close the rest of the way.

Even with the high final score, it was not uncommon to see Arkansas stand around on offense. Spacing was off. Players were stationary. A particularly obvious instance came with six minutes left and Arkansas ahead by three points. Anthlon Bell’s jumper went up and nobody on the Arkansas roster moved. Auburn grabbed the rebound and Bowers scored on the other end. A lead that was nine points nine minutes before was down to one.

Arkansas has five games left until the SEC Tournament, where now it’s a hope they even arrive.

"Everybody has got to go out there and play like its their last time on the court, really," Jabril Durham said.

Follow Eric on Twitter: @ericwbolin

Is This Something You Might Be Interested In?: Arkansas’ starting lineup Wednesday was the first time Anderson had gone with that combination of five players. It was the first time Kouassi had started since Tennessee two weeks ago and first time Beard started since last season. … Auburn’s win is the first in its last nine games against Arkansas. The last Auburn win came February 20, 2010. … Auburn’s 15 3-pointers were the most Arkansas had allowed this season and it was the ninth game the Razorbacks have given up double-digit 3-pointers.