Assessing Moses Moody's legacy after shooting struggles in the 2021 NCAA Tournament
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Assessing Moody's legacy after shooting struggles in the Big Dance

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Moses Moody scored just 11 points in Arkansas' loss to Baylor in the Elite 8.
Moses Moody scored just 11 points in Arkansas' loss to Baylor in the Elite 8. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

HawgBeat's coverage of Arkansas' journey in the 2021 NCAA tournament is presented by Wright's Barbecue. Already serving up the best meats in Arkansas, you can now also find Wright's meat rub and sauces at Walmart and Walmart.com.

INDIANAPOLIS — If this truly was the end for him in college, Moses Moody’s final two games will likely have a negative impact on how he’s remembered by Arkansas fans.

A projected lottery pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, the Razorbacks’ star freshman managed just one point in the first half and only 11 total points - on an abysmal 2 of 10 shooting - in Monday’s 81-72 loss to Baylor in the Elite 8.

That came on the heels of a 4-of-20 performance against Oral Roberts in the Sweet 16, plus he made just 3 of his 17 three-point attempts (17.6 percent) in the NCAA Tournament. When the lights shined brightest, Moody came up short of what Arkansas had come to expect from him.

“Probably just the defense just really keying in on him, a major part of opponents' scouting reports,” head coach Eric Musselman said when asked about his shooting struggles. “That probably would be what I would attribute it to.”

After saying a day earlier that he saw “a lot of buckets” from Moody while studying film, Scott Drew’s squad kept him in check all night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

He attempted only two shots in the first half, missing both, and his two field goals came on layups less than a minute and a half apart midway through the second half. Moody’s other points came at the free throw line, where he was 7 of 8.

“We just tried to make everything as tough as possible,” Drew said. “Third leading scorer in the SEC, he can get buckets in a hurry. Thank goodness we played good defense and had great attention on him, tried to make things tough.”

However, the way he went out should not tarnish what was one of the best freshman seasons ever by an Arkansas player.

Starting every game, Moody led the team in scoring (16.8 ppg) and minutes (33.8 mpg), while also finishing second with 5.8 rebounds per game and 21 total blocks - all as a 6-foot-6 guard.

In the record books, he was one point shy of tying Scotty Thurman’s freshman scoring record of 540 points. According to HogStats, only Thurman (17.4 ppg in 1992-93) and George Kok (18.7 ppg in 1944-45) averaged more points as freshmen, as Moody finished ahead of the likes of Joe Johnson, Corliss Williamson and Todd Day.

The only freshman guard in UA history to average more than Moody’s 5.8 rebounds was Sidney Moncrief, who grabbed 7.6 per game in 1975-76 on his way to becoming the school’s all-time leading rebounder.

Over the past 29 seasons, only three other freshman guards in the SEC have averaged at least 16 points and 5 rebounds - Georgia’s Anthony Edwards in 2019-20, Kentucky’s Jamal Murray in 2015-16 and Auburn’s Toney Douglas in 2004-05.

Teammate Jalen Tate, the only other Arkansas player to start every game, described Moody as a “once-in-a-lifetime player” and a “tremendous talent” following Monday’s loss.

It is widely expected that Moody will take those skills to the next level by declaring for the NBA Draft and forgoing his final three years of eligibility to become the first one-and-done player in school history.

He will certainly be the Razorbacks’ first player selected in the first round since Bobby Portis in 2015 and likely their first lottery pick since Ronnie Brewer in 2006. Some mock drafts have him projected as high as No. 7 - which would make him Arkansas’ highest draft pick since Joe Kleine went sixth overall in 1985.

Ending the season in a shooting slump might have left a bad taste in fans’ mouths, but the impact of his season could have a ripple effect for years to come.

Although he is originally from Little Rock, Moody wasn’t always a lock to return to his home state as a heralded recruit coming out of Montverde Academy. He immediately became Musselman’s top priority when he was hired two years ago, though, and he took a leap of faith by committing to the new coach.

By climbing his way up draft boards from a top-50 prospect to a projected one-and-done lottery pick, Moody proved to other high-level recruits - both in-state and across the country - that Arkansas is a worthy destination, all while playing a key role in ending the Razorbacks’ lengthy Sweet 16 drought.