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.
TENNESSEE 81, ARKANSAS 74:
Hogs can’t put away Volunteers
Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) beats Arkansas forward Coty Clarke (4) to a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. Tennessee won 81-74. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A late intentional foul call and a huge free-throw disparity had Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson hot under the collar after the Razorbacks fell 81-74 to Tennessee on Wednesday.
The Razorbacks led most of the second half and were still ahead 68-66 with less than three minutes remaining when Tennessee’s 6-8 Jaronne Maymon rolled free from his defender on the left block and caught a pass in front of 5-10 guard Kikko Haydar, who was sliding over on help defense.
Haydar hacked down and grabbed Maymon with 2:52 remaining and official Doug Sirmons whistled an intentional foul on the Arkansas captain. Maymon connected on both free throws and Jordan McRae sank a three-pointer with the extra possession to rouse the Thompson-Boling Arena crowd of 14,034 and put the Volunteers (12-6, 3-2 SEC) ahead for good at 71-68.
RECORDS Arkansas 12-6, 1-4 SEC; Tennessee 12-6, 3-2
STARS Tennessee guard Jordan McRae scored 34 points; Arkansas’ Coty Clarke was 7 of 14 and scored 16 points.
TURNING POINT Referee Doug Sirmons called an intentional foul on Arkansas’ Kikko Haydar with 2:52 remaining and the Hogs ahead 68-66. Jeronne Maymon made both free throws before Jordan McRae sank a three-pointer for a five point Tennessee possession and a 71-68 lead the Volunteers would not relinquish.
KEY STAT Tennessee made 30 of 38 free throws, scoring 15 of its last 18 points at the line, while Arkansas was 11 of 17 from the line.
UP NEXT Arkansas hosts Auburn at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“The MVP was probably the flagrant foul call,” Anderson said. “You get under two, three minutes and that should be ‘play on.’ I thought it just kind of changed the whole dynamic of how the game was going.”
“I obviously wasn’t trying to do that,” said Haydar, who came off the bench to score a season-high 10 points. “I feel like I let my team down. That was not my motive, so a tough one to swallow.”
Arkansas (12-6, 1-4 SEC) played with greater energy and rebounding power and shot much better (43.1 percent) than in its dismal performance in an overtime loss at Georgia on Saturday, but the result was its 21st loss in 23 road games in Anderson’s third season. The Razorbacks are 2-18 in SEC road games under Anderson and 3-27 in games played out of state.
“I just feel like we gave a lot of effort, all the heart that we had, we just couldn’t come out with it,” said Arkansas forward Coty Clarke, who led his team with 16 points on 7 of 14 shooting.
McRae, who went 4 of 8 from three-point range and 12 of 14 from the line, scored 34 points, one shy of his career high. Maymon, who had 17 points, including 9 of 10 free-throw shooting, and 9 rebounds, said Tennessee’s offense the last several minutes consisted of “Find Jordy.”
McRae scored Tennessee’s final 13 points, including a 10 of 12 stretch from the line.
Tennessee Coach Cuonzo Martin credited his team with attacking late in the game to seize Arkansas’ momentum.
“They’re just a real tough, feisty team, one of those teams where it got to the point where we didn’t run any plays,” Martin said of the Hogs’ defense. “It was more or less penetration, feed the post, freelance motion because they take you out of a rhythm of what you’re trying to do offensively and you have to be able to make plays.”
The Razorbacks showed up on the backboards, trailing just 42-37 in that department after suffering a 22-rebound deficit at Georgia, but they couldn’t keep Tennessee off the free-throw line. The Volunteers made 30 of 38 from the line, and McRae’s three-pointer at the 2:46 mark was Tennessee’s only field goal while outscoring Arkansas 18-11 in the final 8:18.
“I just thought it became a free-throw shooting contest,” Anderson said. “Our kids fought. … They were in position in the last three, four minutes.
“I thought we went in to attack the basket and we didn’t get to the free-throw line and on the other end they got to the free-throw line.”
Arkansas made 11 of 17 free throws while attempting 21 fewer than Tennessee.
“It’s very frustrating,” Clarke said. “But you’ve got to take it, you know. You’ve got to expect it going into another team’s house. You’ve just got to deal with it. But at the end of the day we were right there and just couldn’t get it.”
Clarke, who also led Arkansas with nine rebounds, opened the second half with a scoring burst to help the Hogs lead by as much as 59-51. Ky Madden added 15 points, while Fred Gulley added 11 and Haydar 10 for the Razorbacks.
Clarke hit a three-pointer on the first possession of the half to give Arkansas a 40-39 lead and he finished a 10-point spurt with a traditional three-point play to make it 51-51 with 16:11 remaining.
Gulley and Anthlon Bell, who got a rare start in place of the struggling Michael Qualls, sank consecutive three-pointers and Madden hit a pair of free throws as the Razorbacks took their 59-51 lead.
“The thought of losing, down eight at home, of course it comes into your mind, but those are things that you can’t display in front of the whole team,” McRae said.
“We were playing at their pace and I think that’s what they wanted. They wanted an up and down game, turnovers. … I think us responding to that eight-point lead was huge.”
The Razorbacks still led by eight, 63-55, on a Moses Kingsley lay-up on the break from Haydar with 11:30 remaining, but an 8-0 Vols run, capped by Josh Richardson’s three-pointer, tied it again at 63-63.
The game featured 10 ties and 15 lead changes. After shooting 31.8 percent in their 66-61 loss at Georgia, the Razorbacks rebounded to make 28 of 65 shots, including 7 of 17 three-pointers, against the Vols.
“We were moving the ball well on offense, we were hitting shots,” Haydar said. “We were playing good defense and rebounding. When we do that, we’re a very good team. We’ve just got to take the next step and learn how to finish.”
Said Anderson, “A lot of positives came out of this here. I keep saying we’re closer. Well, guess what, we got even closer tonight.”
Sports, Pages 15 on 01/23/2014