Gamble pays off for Hogs

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Arkansas forward Coty Clarke tries to drive past South Carolina defender Michael Carrera in the second half of Wednesday's game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas forward Coty Clarke tries to drive past South Carolina defender Michael Carrera in the second half of Wednesday's game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE - It’s been more than a year since South Carolina won an SEC road game, but the Gamecocks made Arkansas sweat it out Wednesday night at Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks had to pull away in the final seconds to hold on and beat the Gamecocks 71-64 before an announced crowd of 9,548.

“We’re certainly glad to have the win,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “Sometimes a raggedy ride is better than a smooth walk.

“It wasn’t a thing of beauty.”

Arkansas was clinging to a 67-64 lead with 12 seconds left when South Carolina senior guard Brenton Williams - who scored a game-high 29 points and made 6 of 13 three point attempts - got the ball looking to tie the game.

But Williams was trapped along the sideline in front of the Gamecocks’ bench by Arkansas seniors Coty Clarke and Mardracus Wade. Clarke got a hand on the ball and knocked it off of Williams, giving the Razorbacks possession with 8.4 seconds left.

Anderson said the Razorbacks knew Williams would get the ball, and they sprung a surprise on him.

“A trap going down the stretch,” Anderson said. “Most people just kind of stay with their guys, but it was one of those risks and we got a reward for it.”

Clarke was credited with his fourth steal of the game. Wade was guarding Williams before Clarke came to help.

“I pride myself on my agility and my ability on defense, so that was my big thing, just get a stop,” Wade said. “I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but luckily Coty read the play well and came over there and trapped with me and forced a turnover.”

Senior guard Ky Madden hit two free throws to give the Razorbacks a 69-64 lead with 7.8 seconds left. Wade made a steal and Alandise Harris was fouled and hit two throws with four seconds left for the final margin.

Sophomore forward Michael Qualls led Arkansas (17-9, 6-7 SEC) with 20 points and had eight rebounds. Clarke added 12 and 11 rebounds and freshman forward Bobby Portis had nine points.

The Razorbacks won for the fourth time in their past five games. Their only loss in that span was at Missouri, 86-85, last Thursday night.

South Carolina (10-16, 3-10) lost its 14th consecutive SEC road game since winning 82-73 in overtime at LSU on Jan. 12, 2013.

The Razorbacks shot 37.9 percent from the field (22 of 58) and 67.9 percent from the free-throw line (19 of 28). In the second half, they hit 8 of 32 (25 percent) from the field.

“We did a lot of good things in the first half, then it seemed the shooting kind of went down in the second half,” Anderson said. “I guess that’s an understatement. We got cold. Couldn’t make any shots. It even transferred to the free-throw line.

“But I thought our defense was a constant, and when we had to make plays, we did.”

The Razorbacks had 18 offensive rebounds that helped them score 17 second-chance points and they held the Gamecocks to 37.3 shooting (22 of 59) and 12 of 15 on free throw attempts.

“South Carolina is a team that you know is going to be a grinder, physical,” Anderson said. “They are going to hit somebody and you’ve got to be able to hit back, and I thought we did.

“We found a way to win, and that’s what you want to do at this time of year.”

South Carolina 6-11 sophomore Laimonas Chatkevicius scored on a layup to tie the game 55-55 with 5:40 left. Qualls hit a three-point basket to put the Razorbacks ahead 58-55 at the 4:40 mark.

Chatkevicius then was called for a flagrant offensive foul for a high elbow against Portis. Portis missed both free throws, and the Razorbacks came up empty on the ensuing possession when Qualls missed on a driving attempt.

But Portis hit a 15-foot jumper and Clarke scored on a layup after two South Carolina misses to put the Razorbacks ahead 62-55 with 2:35 left.

South Carolina pulled within 66-64 on Williams’ driving basket with 21.5 seconds left.

“I think Arkansas is good,” South Carolina Coach Frank Martin said. “I said it before the game, and my opinion doesn’t change. They’re starting to play Mike Anderson basketball. It’s fun to watch.

“We had a chance. We needed one more stop. But when you shoot 37 percent from the field, you have 19 turnovers, you give up 18 offensive rebounds and the other team shoots twice as many free throws as you, it’s hard to win on the road.”

Sports, Pages 17 on 02/20/2014