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.
Hogs slip in stretch vs. Tigers
Arkansas forward Bobby Portis (10) reacts to a foul call against him during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Missouri on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
Correction: Arkansas freshman Bobby Portis had 16 points and seven rebounds Tuesday night in the Razorbacks’ 75-71 loss to Missouri. Portis’ first name was incorrect in a photo caption published Wednesday with this article.
FAYETTEVILLE - It took 20 years, but Missouri has finally won a game at Walton Arena.
The Tigers beat Arkansas 75-71 on Tuesday night before an announced crowd of 14,102 for Missouri’s first victory in seven Walton Arena visits.
Arkansas fell to 45-6 in Walton Arena in Coach Mike Anderson’s three seasons.
“This is a tough place to go get a win,” Missouri Coach Frank Haith said. “We all know that.”
Four Missouri coaches had lost games at Walton Arena coming into Tuesday night’s game - Norm Stewart, Quin Synder, Anderson and Haith - going back to the building’s dedication game 20 seasons ago, when the Razorbacks beat the Tigers 120-68 early in their 1993-1994 NCAA championship season.
“It’s truly something for our guys to be proud of,” Haith said. “I think this building has been magical for them.”
Not so much this month.
It was the second SEC home loss for Arkansas (13-7, 2-5) after the Razorbacks went 17-0 at Walton Arena last season. They had won 23 consecutive at home before losing to Florida 84-82 in overtime Jan. 11.
“It’s kind of uncharted territory for us,” said Anderson, who coached at Missouri for five seasons before taking the Arkansas job. “We’ve done a good job of defending the home court, and let’s give Missouri some credit. I thought Frank had his guys really charged up.
“I thought they brought more energy, and I thought in the end they wanted it a little bit more than we did, and their guys made plays for them going down the stretch.Big shots.”
Fifth-year senior guard Earnest Ross made the biggest shot for Missouri when he hit a three-pointer with 1:06 left to put the Tigers ahead for good at 67-64. Missouri junior point guard Jordan Clarkson drove the lane, the Razorbacks collapsed on him, and he kicked out the ball to a wide-open Ross at the top of the key.
“Everybody was trying to help on defense, but we kind of over committed,” Arkansas junior guard Ky Madden said. “We have to make a play on the other end to try to fix that, but we didn’t, so we lost the game.”
Madden, guarded by Jabari Brown, drove the lane but missed a shot with 52 seconds left and the ball went out of bounds to Missouri.
“I tried to draw a foul, but the ref saw it differently,” Madden said.
The Tigers (16-4, 4-3) hit eight free throws in the final 46 seconds - 2 by Ross, 2 by Johnathan Williams and 4 by Brown - to clinch the victory.
Missouri made 22 of 27 free throws, including all 16 attempts in second half. Ross and Brown, a junior guard, finished with 24 points each and were 8 of 8 on free throws. Clarkson had 11 points and six assists.
“I thought we did a great job of answering their baskets,” Haith said. “I thought our guys showed great toughness and great poise. We had great execution down the stretch.”
The Tigers made more free throws than Arkansas attempted - the Razorbacks were 13 of 19 - because Missouri had a 42-26 rebounding advantage, including 16-9 on the offensive end.
“We got killed on the boards,” Arkansas sophomore forward Michael Qualls said.
Brown and Ross, both 6-5, combined for 11 rebounds. Williams, a 6-9 freshman, had 12 rebounds.
“That’s what we have to do in order to win games: Rebound, rebound, rebound,” Ross said. “That’s what Coach preaches in practice, and that’s what we have to do.”
Madden said the Razorbacks were out hustled by the Tigers.
“We just didn’t go and get them,” Madden said. “We’ve got to have the effort and the energy to go and get rebounds.”
Ross rebounded a miss by Clarkson with 1:27 left to keep alive the possession that ended with Ross’ go-ahead three-pointer.
“We played pretty good defense, but we didn’t do the finishing part, and that’s rebound the basketball,” Anderson said. “We talk about finishing to win. Our guys gutted it up and got back in it, but we just could not get that rebound when we needed to.”
Brown and Ross combined to score 35 of Missouri’s 39 points in the second half, 19 by Brown and 16 by Ross.
Madden led Arkansas with 20 points and Qualls and freshman forward Bobby Portis scored 16 points each.
Qualls hit a three-point basket to give Arkansas its final lead, 61-60, with 3:28 left. Brown’s three-pointer put Missouri ahead 64-61, and Madden had a three-point play on a driving basket to tie it 64-64.
Arkansas stayed in the game by hitting 12 of 29 three-point attempts, but Anderson said the Razorbacks too often settled for jump shots against Missouri’s zone defense. Portis hit 6 of 9 shots and 4 of 4 free throws, and Arkansas might have benefited if he’d gotten more touches inside.
“We made a run back at them, even had the lead,” Anderson said. “We had a spell there where we didn’t make any shots.”
The Razorbacks shot 39 percent (23 of 59) from the field.
Qualls said the Hogs might have taken it for granted that they’d win at home.
“You’re always supposed to take care of home, but we haven’t been doing too much of a good job,” he said. “It’s easy to come out and be lackadaisical and lose focus.”
Anderson said Missouri did the things it needed to do to win on the road, using the same strategy Anderson has been stressing to his players.
“The first thing we always talk about, you’ve got to hang around on the road,” Anderson said. “You’ve just got to hang around and hang around, and they did, and they made some plays in the end.”
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/29/2014