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.
ARKANSAS 86, AUBURN 67:
All right vs. Auburn
Hogs get Tigers at right time
Arkansas guard Fred Gulley III (12) drives to the basket against Auburn guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas, which started Auburn’s descent into SEC purgatory a year ago, made sure to keep the Tigers reeling Saturday in Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks beat Auburn 86-67 before an announced crowd of 16,762 to drop the Tigers to 1-22 against SEC teams - 0-3 against Arkansas - since they lost 88-80 in double overtime at Walton Arena on Jan 16, 2013.
Auburn (8-9, 0-6) lost its 16th consecutive game against an SEC opponent since beating Alabama last season while the Razorbacks (13-6, 2-4) ended a two-game losing skid at Georgia and Tennessee.
“We definitely needed this win,” Arkansas senior guard Fred Gulley said. “I think the biggest thing that happened from this win was that we learned from the games that we’ve been playing.
“We finished well. It came down to the end of the game and we executed and kept making plays and we kept attacking, and that’s how we’re going to finish from here on out.”
The Razorbacks, who lost at Georgia 66-61 in overtime after leading by seven points and lost at Tennessee 81-74 after leading by eight points, shot 65.4 percent in the second half (17 of 26) against Auburn and pulled away after the Tigers cut their deficit to eight points.
“I just thought we were really continually in an attack mode,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “We didn’t let up, and when that opportunity presented itself our guys did a good job of making the plays.”
Junior guard Ky Madden led Arkansas with a career-high 24 points along with 5 assists and 4 rebounds. He shot 6 of 10 from the field - including 3 of 5 on three-pointers - and 9 of 9 from the free-throw line.
“It was a big win … for us personally and for our season, for us to just go into the next game on a positive note,” Madden said. “The last couple of games … we played good enough, but we took the losses.”
Arkansas had 21 assists on 28 baskets, including 14 on 17 in the second half.
“The ball never got stagnant,” said Gulley, who had 10 points and four assists without a turnover. “We didn’t have any ball stoppers. When somebody was open, we hit them. People made plays tonight.
“It was really good to come back home and play in front of the crowd and get everybody involved.”
Arkansas freshman forward Bobby Portis had 18 points -hitting 6 of 8 free throws and scoring baskets inside - and 9 rebounds.
“That’s been a point of emphasis with him,” Anderson said of having Portis play closer to the basket. “He has size, he has agility, he has good footwork. Now he’s just got to continue to attack the basket.”
Arkansas sophomore forward Michael Qualls, who came into the game shooting 18.4 percent (9 of 49), missed his first five shots Saturday before having two dunks, including one on a breakaway after a steal. He finished with 5 points, 4 assists and 2 steals in 14 minutes off the bench.
“We had to get Mike going, not only for this game but for our team to be successful,” said Madden, who had the assist on Qualls’ first dunk. “We need to have him every night.”
It was Arkansas’ seventh consecutive victory against Auburn, all since Tony Barbee became the Tigers’ coach.
“Give Arkansas credit, they made shots,” Barbee said. “I thought we were a little inept on the offensive end of the floor on some good looks that we typically make.
“We made our run, but we couldn’t just crack through with the easy opportunities that we did miss from behind the arc and in the paint and at the rim.”
The Tigers, led by 18 points from senior guard Chris Denson and 17 from junior guard KT Harrell, shot 36.2 percent (21 of 58)and had 18 turnovers.
“It wasn’t the press that bothered us,” Barbee said. “It was us executing, being strong with the ball and making plays in the half-court.”
Arkansas led 36-25 at halftime after Auburn shot 25.9 percent from the field (7 of 27). The Tigers couldn’t pull closer than eight points in the second half.
Madden hit two three-pointers and Moses Kingsley had a layup as the Razorbacks outscored the Tigers 8-0 to put them ahead 59-45 with 11:03 left.
Arkansas shot 31.4 percent (11 of 35) in the first half.
“We were getting good looks, they just weren’t going in,” Gulley said. “So we went into halftime saying just keep shooting. We knew we were going to get it going.
“In the second half we kept getting good looks and we started knocking them down.”
Sports, Pages 21 on 01/26/2014