Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Harris halts Clemson’s rally
Late block, free throws ensure victory for Razorbacks
Arkansas forward Alandise Harris blocks the shot of Clemson guard Rod Hall in the first half of Saturday afternoon's game against the Tigers at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - No one in Walton Arena was happier than Arkansas guard Ky Madden to see Alandise Harris block Clemson’s path to a comeback victory.
The Tigers were poised to cut deeper into what had been a 16-point Razorbacks lead when 6-4 guard Damarcus Harrison stole the ball from Madden and was going in for a layup to pull Clemson within three points with 2:30 left.
But Harris, a 6-6 junior from Little Rock, rose up to reject Harrison’s shot and help the Razorbacks hold on for a74-68 victory Saturday before an announced crowd of 7,432.
“Damarcus makes a great defensive play, a steal, and kind of goes and thinks he has an angle,” Clemson Coach Brad Brownell said. “I don’t think he saw him [Harris] coming.
“Obviously, that block probably sealed our fate to be honest with you.”
Madden said he should have passed the ball before Harrison stole it from him and that he appreciated Harris for erasing his turnover.
“I was real proud of him that he had my back,” Madden said. “That’s the brotherhood that we talk about and we stress all the time. If a player makes a mistake, make sure that next person helps his brother out, and I feel like that’s what Alandise did.”
If Harris hadn’t blocked the shot, Clemson would have cut the Razorbacks’ lead to 65-62.
“Players have to make plays going down the stretch,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “Obviously, that was a big play.”
Harris came up big again when he hit two free throws with 1:17 left to push the Razorbacks’ lead to 67-60. He had been 0 of 5 from the free throw line, and Brownell had directed the Tigers to foul him.
“That was a gut decision by me,” Brownell said. “I just decided to foul. In hindsight, it wasn’t a good decision by the head coach. But there wasn’t a lot of time in the game. I thought we needed more possessions. If he could go 1 for 2 there, I thought we’d have a chance to steal points back.
“Those were big free throws. Give him credit.”
Anderson credited Harris - who came into the game shooting 80 percent (36 of 45) from the free-throw line - for not dwelling on his misses.
“I think he has a short memory,” Anderson said. “He wants to step up and make plays.”
The Razorbacks (6-2) looked like they were pulling away when they outscored Clemson 22-6 over the final 4:50 of the first half and 1:31 of the second half to move head 46-32.
The run included Harris hitting a three-point basket with four seconds left in first half - with an assist from Madden - to make it 40-32. Madden then hit three-pointers on two of Arkansas’ first three possessions of the second half helped by offensive rebounds by Michael Qualls and Bobby Portis.
A layup by Qualls gave Arkansas its largest lead, 54-38, with 14:09 left. But the Razorbacks struggled with missed shots and turnovers, and K.J. McDaniels’ three-point basket at the 2:49 mark pulled Clemson within 65-60.
“We had a comfortable lead, but the game is not over until it’s over,” Anderson said.“Credit to Brad. He thought this was one of his better teams, and it showed where the guys didn’t panic.
“It was a good win for us against a good team.”
McDaniels, a 6-6 junior forward, led Clemson (7-2) with game highs of 27 points and 11 rebounds.
“It seemed like he was everywhere,” Anderson said. “He’s so quick and jumpy.
Qualls, a sophomore forward, led Arkansas with 17 points and six rebounds. He made 6 of 7 shots, including 2 of 2 three-pointers. Madden, a junior from Lepanto, scored 14 points and made 4 of 5 three-pointers.
“Those guys are playing with a lot of confidence,” Anderson said. “They put time in, so it is good to see them go out and have some success.
“Teams are going to pack it in there on Bobby and pack it in there on Alandise, so they’re going to have to have an unselfish nature to where they will just skip it to them and those guys have to knock shots down.”
Portis, a freshman forward from Little Rock Hall, had 13 points while Harris had eight points and seven rebounds.
The Razorbacks hit 10 of 21 three-point baskets, but it was Harris’ blocked shot that stood out when the game was on the line.
“Man, it was really big,” Qualls said. “A big-time block.”
RECORDS Arkansas 6-2, Clemson 7-2 STARS Arkansas sophomore forward Michael Qualls (17 points, 6 rebounds) and junior guard Ky Madden (14 points)
Clemson junior forward K.J. McDaniels (27 points, 11 rebounds).
TURNING POINT Arkansas outscored Clemson 22-6 in over the final 4:50 of the first half and the first 1:31 of the second half to take a 46-32 lead with 18:29 left.
KEY STAT The Razorbacks made 10 of 21 three-pointers, while Clemson made 3 of 15.
UP NEXT Arkansas plays Savannah State at 7 p.m. Thursday at Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Sports, Pages 21 on 12/08/2013