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.
ARKANSAS 77, VANDERBILT 75:
One for the road
Qualls’ 3 a winner for Hogs
Arkansas guard Michael Qualls (24) and forward Bobby Portis (10) celebrate after Arkansas defeated Vanderbilt 77-75 in an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A week after being suspended and having to watch his Arkansas team suffer another road loss at LSU, Michael Qualls hit the game-winning shot to beat Vanderbilt on Saturday at Memorial Gymnasium.
Qualls, a 6-6 sophomore, took a pass from Ky Madden and hit a three-point shot with 2.6 seconds left to lift the Razorbacks to a 77-75 victory over the Commodores. The Razorbacks (15-8, 4-6 SEC) survived Rod Odom’s last-second three-point attempt, which bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
“You’re always frustrated when you feel helpless in a situation, whether you’re there or not, or if you’re on the court and you’re not producing,” Qualls said. “You always feel helpless when you’re not helping your team. So, it’s big. I did all right.”
RECORDS Arkansas 15-8, 4-6 SEC; Vanderbilt 13-9, 5-5.
STARS Arkansas sophomore Michael Qualls (17 points, game-winning three pointer) and senior forward Coty Clarke (14 points), and Vanderbilt senior forward Rod Odom (22 points).
TURNING POINT Arkansas outscored Vanderbilt 9-4 in the final 2:18, with Michael Qualls hitting the game-winning three-pointer with 2.6 seconds left.
KEY STAT Arkansas shot 54 percent from the field (27-50).
Vanderbilt’s first inbound pass after Qualls’ basket, a three-quarter court toss, deflected out of bounds but only took 1.3 seconds off the clock. The Commodores had 1.4 seconds left to inbound the ball on their end of the court and Odom was able to get an open look.
“That was the one we were playing for,” Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said. “We got one of the best shooters in the league a pretty open shot, and it just came up a little bit short. That’s how it goes sometimes.”
It was Arkansas’ first road victory of the season in five tries, and the Razorbacks improved to 3-22 in true road games in Mike Anderson’s three seasons. Both of Anderson’s previous road victories came at Auburn Arena.
The Razorbacks were unable to hold late leads in road losses earlier this year at Georgia and Tennessee, and Arkansas blew a nine point lead in the final nine minutes Saturday. Vanderbilt outscored Arkansas 12-0 to take a 71-68 lead with 3:20 remaining after a layup by James Siakam, but the Razorbacks rallied in the final 2:18 after Madden twice tied the game with a three-pointer and 15-foot jumper.
Odom missed with the game tied in the final minute, and Arkansas’ Coty Clarke was fouled and hit 1 of 2 free throws with 26.2 seconds left to give the Razorbacks a 74-73 lead. Vanderbilt guard Kyle Fuller drove and was fouled with 11.6 seconds left and hit two free throws to give the Commodores a 75-74 lead.
Madden drove into the lane and passed the ball to his left, where Qualls made a contested three-pointer over Siakam and Dai-Jon Parker for his second game-winner of the season.
“Mike knocked down a big shot,” Anderson said. “Ky made a great pass to him, something that we haven’t been doing throughout the year. But that goes to back to the experience factor that we are learning how to win.”
Arkansas shot 54 percent from the field (27 of 50), including 10 of 16 on three-pointers. Freshman forward Bobby Portis, who scored 35 points in the Razorbacks’ 65-58 victory over Alabama on Wednesday, was held to eight points on 3-of-8 shooting.
The rest of the Razorbacks combined to hit 24 of 42 shots at Vanderbilt after being 8 of 40 against Alabama. Qualls had a team-high 17 points, hitting 5 of 10 shots, including 3 of 5 three-pointers and 4 of 4 free throws.
Clarke made 5 of 7 shots and scored 14 points. Madden hit 5 of 7 shots and scored 12 points. Senior guard Mardracus Wade had 11 points off the bench, hitting 3 of 5 shots and 3 of 3 free throws.
“I thought this was a continuance of the second half of the Alabama game, especially defense,” Anderson said. “I thought we concentrated on our defense and we just found a way to win. I thought our guys trusted each other. We didn’t settle. We kept attacking.
“Our guys made the right play, made the right decision.”
Arkansas’ bench outscored Vanderbilt’s bench 40-2. The Commodores played the game with seven scholarship players.
It was the first SEC game this season the Razorbacks shot better than 50 percent. The previous high was 45.9 percent in an 86-67 victory over Auburn on Jan. 25.
“They just made too many shots,” Stallings said, “and, again, some of that was because of our defense and some of was because of really good offense.”
Vanderbilt (13-9, 5-5 SEC) was led by Odom with 22 points. Fuller added 20 points but was 1 of 4 from the free throw line in the final 5:59.
Fuller had 12 points and 10 assists in the Commodores’ 64-60 victory over Tennessee on Wednesday and has been battling flu-like symptoms. Fuller committed three of Vanderbilt’s 15 turnovers, which led to 22 points for the Razorbacks, who applied a full-court press for much of the game.
“The press worked for the most part, but I still felt like we had a good chance to win,” Fuller said. “We just didn’t get the stop that we needed.”
Arkansas led 68-59 with 8:47 remaining on Clarke’s rebound basket but was held scoreless for 6:29 until Madden hit the first of two crucial shots in the closing minutes.
The Razorbacks were able to recover, something they hadn’t been able to do in the other road failures.
“Just keeping our composure and staying together, and doing what we’ve doing to keep us in the game,” Madden said of his late game mind-set. “Coach always tells us whenever we’re on the road, the only thing we need is just to stay in the game and have a shot going down late and we did.
“We drew something up, Mike got a good look, I kicked it to him and he knocked it down."
Sports, Pages 23 on 02/09/2014