Desi Sills was almost an unsung hero.
Instead, the University of Arkansas got bit in the same place it has so many times this season -- in the paint.
With a second to play and the Razorbacks leading 77-76, Mississippi State's Tyson Carter missed, but 6-11 Abdul Ado got his only field goal of the day on a tip-in with 0.6 seconds on the clock to give the visitors a sweep of the Razorbacks this season.
State had led more than 28 minutes and was ahead 56-46 with 13:18 to play when Sills, a sophomore from Jonesboro, awakened.
He made a steal, drew a foul and converted both free throws for his first points of the game. Less than a minute later, Sills converted a three-point play and followed that up with a perfect pass to Adrio Bailey for a layup. The Hogs were off and running.
They would hit another drought to fall behind 69-60, but Mason Jones scored a basket before making two free throws, and Sills penetrated for a layup.
In less than 70 seconds, Jones and Sills repeated the sequence of two free throws and a basket after Sills' spin move around the State defense for a layup cut the Bulldogs' lead to 72-70 with 3:22 to play.
Jones, who finished with 38 points, made two more free throws to tie it.
State missed a three, and Sills finished off a 7-0 run with a three-pointer to make it 75-72 Arkansas with 1:45 to play.
Just 15 seconds later -- way too soon -- Carter was headed to the free-throw line and made both. Jalen Harris then committed an ill-advised pass that Carter grabbed for a breakaway dunk and 76-75 Mississippi State lead.
Jones put the Razorbacks back in the lead with two more free throws.
MSU missed a shot, and Jimmy Whitt rebounded. The Bulldogs locked down Jones, who missed a contested three. The Bulldogs rebounded, Carter drove for a shot and Ado cleaned it up.
Not protecting the paint has been a problem all season for the Hogs, and so has a lack of help off the bench. Mississippi State got 36 points in the paint and 34 points from its bench.
Arkansas' bench produced two points.
The Razorbacks now face a mountain of a challenge to get back in the NCAA Tournament.
This was their fourth consecutive loss, including two at home, and their NET ranking is dropping like a penny stock during a recession.
Eric Musselman has not made excuses, but he doesn't have to. The lack of size and depth have been obvious all season, especially since losing Isaiah Joe to a knee injury.
Something else that his hindered them -- and it is the elephant in the room -- is a lack of basketball IQ at times. Some players do make moves at the right time, but not all.
There are too many three-pointers attempted by guys who are not three-point shooters, and several unnecessary fouls were committed Saturday.
The Razorbacks now go on the road to play Florida, which is a tough place to win. An upset can happen, but Sills will need to play 40 minutes and Jones will have to do what he does best, which is play every position on the court. Whitt needs to contribute more, too.
After the Gators, the Hogs get Missouri, Tennessee and LSU at home, and play Georgia and Texas A&M on the road.
There's also the SEC Tournament, but it doesn't appear the Hogs have the hosses to win that many games in a short period of time.
Saturday was almost the story of Sills, an unsung hero, but instead the Razorbacks didn't protect the paint and lost because of a put back with 0.6 seconds to play.
Sports on 02/16/2020