Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
In the lane:
Hogs only looking at next game
Arkansas' Alandise Harris (2) shoots under pressure from Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Lexington, Ky. Arkansas won 71-67. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The level of noise in Arkansas’ locker room was an indication of how critical the Razorbacks’ 71-67 overtime victory at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena could be for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas has won seven of its past eight games and will receive a significant bump in the Ratings Percentage Index for winning on the road over a top-20 team after Kentucky came in ranked 17th.
“We’re not worried about the postseason, we’re just worried about Georgia,” said junior Alandise Harris, who scored four of Arkansas’ final six points of regulation on tough drives to the basket. “I’m not thinking about the postseason, because I know if we do what we’re supposed to do we’ll be there regardless.”
Senior Coty Clarke, who kept reminding teammates of their lengthy overtime lessons this year, was happy to be a part of Arkansas’ first season sweep of Kentucky.
“I’m proud I was on the team that was able to do it, and we’re moving forward,” Clarke said. “We’ve got to focus on and capitalize on the next game.”
The Razorbacks were 8 of 8 from the free-throw line in the first half and finished 16 of 16, its first perfect performance from the line this season.
Ky Madden led the way with 8-of-8 shooting, while Coty Clarke was 6 of 6 and Kikko Haydar, inserted late in the game for that purpose, made 2 of 2 with 17.9 seconds remaining in overtime to seal the 71-67 victory.
Kentucky came in averaging 30.4 free throws per game, easily the best in the SEC.
The teams combined for 81 free throws in Fayetteville, 41 by Arkansas, the first team to take more free throws than the Wildcats this season.
Arkansas and Kentucky have gone into overtime in three of their past five meetings. The Razorbacks have won each of the overtime games, including both this season. Arkansas beat the Wildcats 77-76 in overtime Feb. 23, 2011, in John Pelphrey’s last season.
Kentucky outrebounded the Razorbacks by a 47-38 margin, including 26-11 in offensive boards.
The Wildcats won the board battle 50-32 in the first game between the teams, an 87-85 Arkansas victory in overtime.
Arkansas has won consecutive SEC road games for the first time under Mike Anderson.
The Razorbacks have also won three of their past four on the road. Ky Madden’s shot in the lane in the final seconds kept the Razorbacks from winning the other, an 86-85 setback at Missouri.
The Razorbacks had been 2-19 under Anderson on the road entering the season.
Wear ‘em down
Arkansas’ Coty Clarke said the Razorbacks’ hectic pace and frequent subbing played a role in outlasting the Wildcats.
“We do a lot of wearing and tearing and we knew that our depth was getting to them,” Clarke said. “They were doing a lot of subbing, switching in and out, and you could tell guys were getting tired. That’s what we do.
“We run up and down, pushing it on offense and we play fast on defense. We knew that fatigue would set in. It was only a matter of time.”
Arkansas had a quick 7-2 lead in the opening moments behind a tip-in from Michael Qualls, Ky Madden’s driving basket and a three-pointer from Qualls.
The lead evaporated quickly, however, behind a 9-0 run by the Wildcats.
Arkansas put together a 22-6 run of its own to seize its largest lead at 29-17.
Kentucky coach John Calipari was exasperated at his team’s inability to cash in on shots from near pointblank range.
“We missed 10 one-foot shots,” Calipari said. “I thought they’d come out and play. They didn’t. The other team played harder than they played. The game got physical. We couldn’t make one-footers. It’s physical, so what?
“You know, you can’t miss 12 one-foot shots. The guy bumped me, grabbed me, hit me in the face. So what? Let someone else play.”
Arkansas’ perimeter defense was sharp early, with tipped passes leading to easy transition baskets.
Michael Qualls had a takeaway from Andrew Harrison that turned into a breakaway two-handed dunk. Moments later, he stole the ball from Alex Poythress and drove through a defender for a one-handed jam.
The Razorbacks started the lineup of Coty Clarke, Fred Gulley, Ky Madden, Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls for the fourth consecutive game and seventh time overall. The group is 5-2 as a starting five.
Sports, Pages 22 on 02/28/2014