Michigan coach John Beilein will be the first to tell you that it’s tough to win on the road in college basketball. It’s even tougher when the home team you’re trying to top simply won’t miss a shot.

That was the case in Fayetteville, Ark. on Saturday in the Wolverines’ 66-64 loss to Arkansas.

Razorback guard Madracus Wade opened the scoring by drilling a 3-pointer before a minute had elapsed in the game. An and-one play by Rickey Scott made it 6-0 Arkansas before Michigan got on the board via a jumper from sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr.

It was certainly a solid start for the Razorbacks, but it was nothing the Wolverines haven’t seen before. That is, until Arkansas’ Devonta Abron dunked, Julysses Nobles drilled a 3-pointer and Scott nailed another jumper.

It didn’t end there. The Razorbacks went on to convert their first 11 field-goal attempts of the game — more consecutive baskets than Michigan had given up all season — before the run mercifully ended when guard Rashad Madden missed a 3-pointer from the left corner with 9:50 left in the first half. Arkansas was already up 19 points.

“They really came out and made all their shots,” Beilein said. “Some of them were just transition (opportunities), and they really got good looks. They got tough looks that went in, and then the momentum builds.”

Given the box score — Arkansas finished the half with a field-goal percentage of 65.4 and made four of its seven 3-point attempts — one would think the Razorbacks’ run resulted from Michigan’s subpar defensive play.

And the Wolverines did have plenty of defensive weak spots. Early on, they allowed the speedy Razorback guards to get to the rim at will, even in half-court sets. Michigan also hurt itself by missing jumpers on the offensive end, allowing Arkansas to get out in transition. While the Razorbacks don’t really embody the “40 Minutes of Hell” mantra that Mike Anderson-coached teams are known for, they do have a potent fast-break attack.

That was evidenced by their successful run-outs after Wolverine misses. Michigan, was also stymied by Arkansas’ occasional full-court pressure. The team had six turnovers in the first frame, thus giving up even more transition opportunities. That’s not a terrible number, but mistakes are magnified against a team like the Razorbacks.

“We have to come out more aggressive in the first half,” Hardaway Jr. told AnnArbor.com. “We held them to 20 points in the second half, which means we’re playing really great defense and we out-scored them. But we have to turn that around in the first half.”

But in many instances, the Wolverines did play great defense, only to see Arkansas make a tough shot anyway. It was just one of those days for the defense.

Nothing Michigan tried in the first half to stop the Arkansas attack seemed to work. Beilein deployed the 1-3-1 zone 12 minutes into the frame, but Scott just shot over it, making a jumper to extend his team’s lead to 19 points, 31-12.

When senior guard Stu Douglass hit a 3-pointer with four and a half minutes left in the first frame to punctuate a 7-2 mini run for the Wolverines, it appeared they had stolen some of the momentum back from the home team. But, continuing the pattern, Arkansas followed that with a basket of its own, pushing its lead back out to 16 points and killing another Michigan attempt to get things rolling.

The defense’s frustrations were summed up by a play a couple minutes after that. Razorback guard B. J. Young drove into the lane, guarded by sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz. The 6-foot-3 Young stepped back and tried to hit a fadeaway jumper, despite the 6-foot-9 Smotrycz sticking with him and seemingly erasing any sight angle to the basket.

But Young’s shot went in anyway. Arkansas totaled 46 points in the first half, the most the Wolverines have given up before halftime all season.

“They were absolutely hot,” freshman point guard Trey Burke told AnnArbor.com. “Sometimes you can’t do anything about that. But I’m sure we could’ve held them to less than 46 (points). It’s about coming out flat. You’ve got to have the same intensity in the first half.”

Later in the half, Michigan’s defense improved enough to get some stops, allowing the team to enter halftime just down 13 points, despite seeing the deficit balloon to 20 earlier in the half.

And the Wolverines were even better after the break, holding the Razorbacks to a 7-for-22 performance from the field in the second half. The only glaring miscue was a botched pick-and-roll late in the game. Senior guard Zack Novak was tardy in providing help after Arkansas big man Hunter Mickelson found himself wide open in the lane. Mickelson’s basket with 42 seconds left in the game proved to be the winning score.

Other than that, Michigan’s second-half defense was excellent. And it does say something that the Wolverines were able to come back like they did, especially on the road.

Still, one is left wondering how the game might have turned out if, early on, the Razorbacks didn’t manage to shoot as unconsciously as they did.

“It took us a while to get adjusted, but once we did, we played a pretty good game,” Beilein said. “The early lead hurt us.”

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