Arkansas sputters, spurts, survives

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, December 21, 2012
BJ Young was not selected in the 2013 NBA draft on Thursday.
Photo by Andy Shupe
BJ Young was not selected in the 2013 NBA draft on Thursday.

— Arkansas struggled to hit free throws and three-pointers Thursday night against Robert Morris University. The Razorbacks also had too many careless turnovers.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson recaps the Razorbacks' 79-74 victory over Robert Morris Thursday at Bud Walton Arena.

Mike Anderson - Robert Morris Postgame

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But Arkansas still managed to beat the Colonials 79-74 before an announced crowd of 7,013 in Walton Arena and end Robert Morris’ five-game winning streak.

“Unfortunately, because they are more talented than we are, they were able to kind of turn it on and turn it off,” Robert Morris Coach Andrew Toole said. “But if they get all 40 minutes put together, I think they have a chance to be a very good team.”

The Razorbacks (6-4) got a game-high 23 points from sophomore guard BJ Young, but he also had 6 of their 14 turnovers while playing 34 minutes.

“Sometimes when you play that many minutes, especially with what we’re doing, your decision-making kind of goes a little by the wayside,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought BJ was guilty of that, but he’s got to learn from it.

“I mean, he’s a sophomore. That’s what sophomores do.”

Arkansas shot 22.2 percent on three-point attempts (4 of 18) and a season-low 50 percent from the free throw line (13 of 26), but used a dominant stretch in the second half to overcome a 41-37 Robert Morris lead.

The Razorbacks outscored Robert Morris 20-5 over a 6:34 span, including eight points by sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson, to take a 57-46 lead with 11:17 left.

“We had everybody on the same page and got going on that run, and we definitely needed it,” said Mickelson, who scored a career-high 16 points. “They’re a great team and they played really well, but we ran them all up and down because that’s the style we play, and I think it got to them in the end.”

Toole said the Razorbacks’ energy level went up while the Colonials’ went down.

“We talked about that at halftime, that they’d come out and increase their pressure, try and make a run,” Toole said. “I thought we settled for a couple quick shots instead of being a little more patient and understanding we needed to work it harder to get a great one.

“The game flew to their tempo instead of ours. In order of us to be successful here, we really needed to control tempo for all 40 minutes, and we didn’t do that.”

Robert Morris, which got 17 points each from junior guards Karvel Anderson and Coron Williams, pulled within 71-68 on two free throws by sophomore forward Lucky Jones with 2:50 left.

But the Razorbacks stayed ahead as Young hit 1 of 2 free throws, junior forward Marshawn Powell got free for a dunk after the Colonials had a turnover and missed shot on back-to-back possessions, and Young got two baskets in the final 18.6 seconds on a drive and putback of a missed free throw by junior guard Kikko Haydar.

“I thought in the second half, we imposed our will on them,” Anderson said. “They came out really on fire shooting the ball, but I thought in the second half we settled down and started getting stops. Our defense sped them up.

“They were shooting some shots not necessarily out of their offense, and that favored us.”

The Colonials finished at 36.4 percent shooting from the field (20 of 55) after starting 3 of 4 — all on three-point attempts.

“They’re a team that relies on their jump shots,” Arkansas junior guard Fred Gulley said. “So I knew in the second half after the wear and tear we put on them that the shots would be a little bit harder for them to make.”

Robert Morris played its second road game in three days after winning 66-61 at Louisiana-Lafayette Tuesday night, but Toole said the Colonials didn’t lose their legs in the final minutes.

“I think we lost our brains,” Toole said. “I think we lost our minds a little bit. We didn’t stay poised and stay together as a team.

“We had a couple guys try to make some individual plays that you just can’t make against a team like Arkansas.”

Arkansas junior guard Mardracus Wade finished with a season-high 14 points. Powell had 12 points and nine rebounds.

“I thought it was a real good ... a real good gut-check for our team against a very good Robert Morris team that came in hot in terms of shooting the ball,” Anderson said. “I thought defensively we did a lot of good things in finding their shooters and making them tough shots.

“If we make our free throws, it’s a different game.”

Anderson said the Razorbacks didn’t panic when Robert Morris kept cutting into the lead in the final minutes.

“We started making plays and getting the ball to the right people,” he said. “They [The Colonials] wouldn’t go away, but the credit goes to our guys. We didn’t falter and finished out the game and got the win.”

Sports, Pages 20 on 12/21/2012