Matt Jones has been the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette since 2010. He is also a feature writer for Hawgs Illustrated magazine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in documentary film.
Hogs hold off Clemson
Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels, right, drives to the basket against Arkansas guard Michael Qualls during the first half of a NCAA college basketball game against Clemson Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE Nearly everything but the score went Clemson's way late Saturday at Bud Walton Arena.
The Tigers limited Arkansas to only two field goals the final 10 minutes, created several second-chance opportunities and watched as the Razorbacks missed eight free throws in the final 6:05.
But Arkansas got enough defensive stops and made enough free throws late to hold off Clemson for a 74-68 win at home. The Razorbacks won their 19th straight game inside Bud Walton Arena.
"Those areas that they did well in, we didn't do as well," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "We got to the free throw line, but we didn't convert. And we gave them some offensive rebounds.
"We had a comfortable lead, but the game is not over until it's over. Credit to (Clemson coach) Brad Brownell. He thought this was one of his better teams and it showed where the guys didn't panic. But it was a good win for us against a good team."
Arkansas used great 3-point shooting to help build a 16-point lead after halftime. Alandise Harris' 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer gave the Razorbacks a 40-32 lead and Rashad Madden added two more treys in Arkansas' first two possessions of the second half.
RECORDS: Arkansas 6-2, Clemson 7-2
LEADING SCORERS: Arkansas, Qualls 17; Clemson, McDaniels 27
TURNING POINT: Alandise Harris and Rashad Madden made back-to-back 3-pointers to give Arkansas the lead for good less than 5 minutes before halftime
KEY STAT: Arkansas made 10 of 21 3-point attempts
NOTABLE: Teams are tentatively scheduled to play at Clemson on Dec. 7, 2014
The Razorbacks (6-2) made 10 of their first 15 attempts from 3-point range against Clemson, which entered the game allowing the fewest points per game in the NCAA.
"It's what they were giving us," Anderson said. "Some were in transition. The Clemson defense packs it in there and they make you shoot jump shots."
The Tigers eventually clamped down on Arkansas' shooters, holding the Razorbacks without a made basket for more than 6 minutes during one stretch late in the second half. Bobby Portis' jumper from the baseline with 4:07 left and breakaway slam with 4 seconds remaining were Arkansas' only made field goals in the final 10 minutes, 17 seconds.
The defense allowed Clemson (7-2) to climb back into the game. The Tigers used an 11-2 run to pull within 65-60 on a K.J. McDaniels 3-pointer with 2:49 remaining.
McDaniels, a junior forward, finished with a career-high 27 points and 11 rebounds.
"I get to see him all the time and this is typical," Brownell said. "He's a very talented young man. And he' really hard-working and he's really improved. He's humble. I'm just glad other people get to see him because it's really fun to coach him. He plays as hard as he possibly can and impacts the game on both ends. Certainly made a couple of big shots to give us a chance late in the game. I thought he was terrific."
Damarcus Harrison had a fast-break chance seconds after the McDaniels 3, but Harris, who had missed four straight free throws minutes earlier, blocked him from behind to preserve a five-point advantage for the Razorbacks.
"He was on his way to a layup and we always tell our guys to never give up on a play," Anderson said. "I think Alandise wanted to make amends... for missing those free throws. Players have to make plays going down the stretch. Obviously that was a big play."
McDaniels added a dunk with 29 seconds left to pull Clemson to within 70-66. The Tigers twice pulled to within four points in the final minute, but couldn't get any closer.
Clemson had several chances to further cut into the Arkansas lead, recording 19 offensive rebounds, but the Tigers only capitalized with 14 second-chance points. During one possession in the second half Clemson had four offensive rebounds but came away with no points.
The Tigers were held to 32.8 percent shooting Saturday, but made up for the poor shooting by converting 25 of 29 free throw attempts.
"They certainly bother you with the way they play, all their pressure and just the different things they do to get you out of rhythm," Brownell said. "We didn't have any interior game today at all. That was a major problem.
"They mixed defenses and did a lot of different things, and we had a hard time getting into a rhythm."
Clemson controlled the tempo for much of the first half, running a slower pace that seemed to frustrate the contrasting styled Razorbacks. The Tigers capped a 9-0 run with a pair of McDaniels dunks in transition to take a 26-24 lead with 7:06 remaining before halftime.
Arkansas began to speed things up when the Razorbacks began to hit shots from beyond the arc. Harris and Madden made consecutive 3-pointers to give Arkansas the lead for good with less than 5 minutes left in the first half.
Michael Qualls, who scored a team-high 17 points for Arkansas, also added a pair of makes from 3-point range in the first half. Madden hit a career-best four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points, one off his career-high.
"They are a little older, a little more mature and they know when to take shots," Anderson said of Qualls and Madden. "I always say, if you look at the kind of shots, it's because of the great ball movement. Today, 16 assists on 22 field goals. That tells me our guys are sharing the rock. You make shots sometimes because of where the ball is coming from as opposed to coming out and just shooting it."
The game was the first between Arkansas and Clemson since a Razorbacks win in 1962. The Tigers were the first ACC team to visit Bud Walton Arena since 2001.
This story was syndicated by The Associated Press