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:
Foul shots not falling in crunch
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson and Arkansas forward Alandise Harris talk on the sidelines after Arkansas turned the ball over late in the overtime period of Saturday afternoon's game against Florida at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Foul shots not falling in crunch
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ free-throw percentage has slipped significantly since the start of SEC play, and it cost the Razorbacks in their 84-82 overtime loss to Florida.
None of Saturday’s misses were more painful than the wayward front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity by Alandise Harris with 17.1 seconds left in regulation and Arkansas ahead 66-64.
The Gators grabbed the rebound and forced overtime on Scottie Wilbekin’s 12-foot bank shot with 2.2 seconds remaining.
Arkansas hit 71.3 percent of its free throws (241 of 338) before the start of SEC play, but the Razorbacks are 25 of 41 (60.9 percent) during their 0-2 SEC start.
“When you have an opportunity to put them away, you’ve got to put away a team such as Florida,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “The difference in this game, guys, is the free-throw line. If you look at the free-throw line, they made theirs and we didn’t make ours.”
Florida made 25 of 34 free throws (73.5 percent) to Arkansas’ 18 of 27 (66.7 percent).
Arkansas’ best weapon against Florida’s early zone defense was big man Coty Clarke, whose two three pointers accounted for his team’s first six points, then added a left-hand short shot to help the Hogs take an 11-8 lead.
Clarke finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, the second time in his career that he has had at least 10 of each in a game.
Clarke said Coach Mike Anderson urged him to be more assertive after the Hogs’ 69-53 loss at Texas A&M on Wednesday.
“Coach challenged me to be more aggressive after we lost that game and at halftime of that game,” Clarke said. “I didn’t do my job, so I wanted to do my best offensively and defensively and try to help my team.”
Clarke had one forgettable moment, missing a dunk after rebounding a Ky Madden miss that would have given Arkansas a seven-point lead with three minutes to play.
Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin had two options with the clock winding down in regulation and Florida trailing 66-64.
Wilbekin, a 6-2 senior, was supposed to either drive and get himself a shot or pass it out to a teammate for a potential game-winning three-pointer.
Wilbekin, noticing his defender Ky Madden backing away inside the arc, drove the right side of the key and nestled in an 8-foot bank shot to put the game in overtime.
“You couldn’t ask for a better shot in that situation,” said Wilbekin, who was 4 of 12 from the field and scored 18 points after coming off the bench and playing with a sore ankle.
“It was a tough shot, and he made a nice shot,” Madden said.
Florida stopped Arkansas’23-game winning streak at Walton Arena, a stretch that began after a 91-82 loss to Syracuse on Nov. 30, 2012.
The Razorbacks are 33-22 at Walton Arena against ranked opponents, including 4-3 under Mike Anderson, whose Hogs downed No. 2 Florida 80-69 here last year.
“That’s all we were thinking about,,” Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin said.
Arkansas is 11-7 against top-10 opponents since Walton Arena opened for the 1993-1994 season.
Arkansas’ leading scorer Michael Qualls made 2 of 10 shots and scored 10 points, including a three-pointer at the final buzzer, to continue his recent slump.
Qualls has made 6 of 33 shots (18.2 percent) in his past three games after hitting 57 of 102 shots (.558) in the first 12 games.
“He’s just got to find his rhythm. That’s all,” Coach Mike Anderson said. “It’s a matter of just getting his rhythm and confidence.”
Qualls made half his three-pointers (17 of 34) through 10 games, but he’s 2 of 17 (.118) in the five games since.
Florida’s Patric Young fouled out with 2:13 remaining in overtime, but he still had his head in the game as he walked back to the Florida bench with Arkansas’ Bobby Portis at the free-throw line and the Gators leading 72-69.
Young’s every step was met with the “left-right!” chant from the Arkansas student section, but Young cleverly waited until Portis was on the brink of releasing the first of two free throws before taking his seat, throwing off the fans waiting to shout out, “Sit down!”
Portis missed both free throws, completing a 2-of-6 stretch at the line for the Razorbacks.
“I timed it right when he was shooting his free throw,” said Young, who clapped loudly after the miss. “They didn’t want to mess him up, and he missed it anyway, so I was pretty excited about that.”
Arkansas quickly fell behind 71-66 in overtime as Alandise Harris was called for traveling, Fred Gulley turned it over with an errant pass and Ky Madden missed a free throw.
Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey, in the final season of his three year Arkansas buyout, is making $420,000 from the Razorbacks and $180,000 from Florida this season.
Pelphrey, 69-59 in four years at Arkansas, was fired after the 2010-2011 season.
SATURDAY’S GAMES Florida 84, Arkansas 82, OT LSU 71, South Carolina 68 Missouri 70, Auburn 68 Kentucky 71, Vanderbilt 62 Georgia 66, Alabama 58 Mississippi State 76, Mississippi 72 Texas A&M 57, Tennessee 56
TUESDAY’S GAMES All times Central Georgia at Florida, 6 p.m.
Kentucky at Arkansas, 8 p.m.
Sports, Pages 22 on 01/12/2014