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.
Latest jam by Qualls has Arkansas rocking
Arkansas guard Michael Qualls (24) looks to drive to the lane as Kentucky forward Alex Poythress defends during the second half of play Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Kentucky likes to brag about being college basketball’s all time winning program with 2,123 victories in 111 seasons, but the Wildcats have a losing record facing Mike Anderson’s teams.
Anderson improved to 3-2 against Kentucky when his Arkansas Razorbacks beat the No. 13 Wildcats 87-85 in overtime Tuesday night in Walton Arena before a season-high announced crowd of 18,886.
Given a chance to brag about beating the Wildcats more than they have beaten his teams, Anderson declined and praised Kentucky and Coach John Calipari.
“I guess I’m not into me. I just like winning,” Anderson said. “Kentucky is a tremendous program. Cal’s a great, great coach, has a great, great team, great staff. We were just fortunate. We had the ball last, and we made a play.”
In a game filled with big plays - as well as a combined 60 fouls called - Arkansas sophomore forward Michael Qualls made the biggest one of all.
Qualls soared above the rim and threw down a two-handed dunk with 0.2 seconds left off a missed three-point attempt by Ky Madden to break an 85-85 tie and send the crowd into a frenzy.
After officials reviewed the clock to see how much time was left, Kentucky inbounded the ball and Aaron Harrison’s pass landed in the scoreboard hanging over midcourt for the Wildcats’ 17th turnover of the game, sealing Arkansas’ victory.
Kentucky’s players got caught watching the flight of Madden’s shot while Qualls went to the basket for the dunk that has drawn loads of national attention with the game being telecast on ESPN.
It was Qualls’ third offensive rebound against the massive Wildcats, a part of his game Anderson has been stressing.
“He’s using what God has gifted him with,” Anderson said. “I mean, he’s the one guy on our team that can make a play because of his athletic ability, and we were witness to it.
“Not many guys could have done that, the timing of it. He just made an unbelievable play.
“He just came out of nowhere.”
Qualls finished 5 of 14 from the field after being 3 of 22 in the first two SEC games against Texas A&M and No. 7 Florida, including 1 of 12 against the Aggies with several missed layups.
“It was kind of hard to shake that,” Qualls said. “It’s more mental than anything, because I haven’t really been struggling with my shot all season. Just the past couple of games I was in a slump, especially the Texas A&M game because, like, a piece of glass was over the rim. I just couldn’t buy a bucket.”
Qualls finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists and said the game-winning dunk was a boost for his confidence, but more importantly it helped the Razorbacks (12-4, 1-2 SEC) avoid an 0-3 conference start with their next two games on the road against Georgia and Tennessee.
“We’re still behind the eight-ball,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to go out and steal some on the road, and that’s going to be our mind-set.”
Florida ended Arkansas’ 23-game Walton Arena winning streak by beating the Razorbacks 84-82 in overtime last Saturday.
“Florida was a tough loss,” Anderson said. “Sometimes guys can have flashbacks, but to our guys’ credit, I thought they showed some resilience.”
Anderson had a message for the Razorbacks going into overtime against Kentucky.
“Let’s show not only ourselves, but everybody else, we learned something from the last time we were in overtime,” Anderson said. “In order to get that experience, you’ve got togo through it.”
Madden, who scored 18 points, might have been the only person in Walton Arena who didn’t see Qualls’ dunk.
“I just shot it and I knew it was short, so I was running back on defense,” Madden said. “I just heard the crowd roar and looked up.
“Good play. We needed it. That’s something that he can do all the time.”
Arkansas also got big games from junior forward Alandise Harris (12 points), freshman forward Bobby Portis (11 points, 10 rebounds) and senior guard Fred Gulley (nine points). Ten Razorbacks played nine or more minutes and 11 scored at least two points.
“This was a total team effort,” Anderson said, “guys coming off the bench to provide energy so the guys that started out could finish the game off.”
Kentucky, led by freshmen James Young (23 points) and Julius Randle (20 points, 14 rebounds), got three-point baskets from Harrison with one second left in regulation and from Young with nine seconds left in overtime to tie it 74-74 and 85-85.
The game was tied 18 times and had 10 lead changes. The Razorbacks twice overcame deficits in overtime.
“This was a great win for them,” Calipari said. “When it went to overtime, they had to have the dregs of Florida. We get the first basket, it looks like we’re in good shape and they just keep fighting, so you’ve got to give them credit.
“Good win for them. Tough loss for us.”
TUESDAY’S GAMES Arkansas 87, Kentucky 85, OT Florida 71, Georgia 50
WEDNESDAY’S GAMES Tennessee 78, Auburn 67 Alabama 80, Mississippi State 61 Texas A&M 75, South Carolina 67 Mississippi 88, LSU 74, OT
TODAY’S GAME All times Central Missouri at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m.
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/16/2014