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:
Hot start by Clarke helps UA
Arkansas guard Coty Clarke (4) celebrates after completing a dunk over a Georgia defender during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark.. Clarke led the Razorbacks in scoring with 23 points as Arkansas defeated 87-75. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE - Coty Clarke’s career-high 23-point game started with a bang Saturday and ended with six consecutive free throws in the final minute of Arkansas’ 87-75 victory over Georgia.
Clarke, a forward, made a three-pointer from the left wing 14 seconds into the game, then scored from low on the right block, hit a one-hander from about 13 feet and made two free throws to score nine of Arkansas’ first 14 points in the opening 4:31.
“I wanted to help my team out and stay on attack mode,” Clarke said. “I was watching them on film and their forwards, it seemed like they sag a lot.”
Clarke, a senior from Birmingham, Ala., scored 20 points in his first game as a Razorback, on Nov. 9, 2012, and that stood as his career best until Saturday.
“He’s playing like it’s his last game,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “He played like it was a big game to him, and I thought our guys kind of fed off of him.”
Clarke finished 5 of 11 from the field, 2 of 3 from three-point range, 11 of 13 on free throws and had 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 28 minutes.
Arkansas’ streak of 21 consecutive made free throws ended when Ky Madden missed the first of a three-shot foul with 7:52 left in the first half.
The streak began when Madden converted to complete a three-point play with 6:45 left in the Hogs’ 73-69 victory at Mississippi State. Arkansas made 16 of 16 free throws in its 71-67 overtime victory at Kentucky, then Coty Clarke and Anthlon Bell hit two each to start the game.
Arkansas finished 26 of 36 (.722) at the line against Georgia.
Senior guard Rickey Scott Jr., who had not played in the past three games, came off the bench to hit a three-pointer that put Arkansas ahead for good at 39-37 with 1:55 left in the first half.
The three-pointer was Scott’s first since his 1-of-3 game from three-point range against Tennessee-Martin on Dec. 19.
“I knew I could hit threes, I just haven’t been taking threes,” Scott said.
“How about Rickey Scott?” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “[He’s] a guy that’s been sitting there. I always tell them, you never know when your turn is going to come. He came in and gave us a big lift right before the half that enabled us to, I think, get the momentum.”
Ky Madden had a defender right in his face, so he used his right hand to slip a wrap-around lob pass high across the rim to a leaping Alandise Harris, who controlled the ball with his right hand and slammed it through in one motion.
The alley-oop dunk put Arkansas ahead 76-65 with 1:11 left in the game and left Harris pumping his chest.
Here ya go
Coty Clarke and Michael Qualls took turns throwing each other lobs for highflying scores that turned into three-point plays late in the first half.
Clarke fed Qualls a perfect lob for a two-handed dunk, and a foul by Nemanja Djurisic led to a three-point play and a 36-35 Arkansas lead after a timeout.
Qualls sent a lob pass a little too high a couple of minutes later, but Clarke corralled it, adjusted in air and rolled his shot in off the rim while being fouled by Kenny Gaines.
“We’re getting way better than what we were in transition in our two-man game between me and him,” Qualls said.
Georgia made 13 of its first 16 shots, including 5 of 5 on three-pointers, to seize a 35-28 lead with 5:23 left in the first half.
“I thought we attacked everything well,” Georgia Coach Mark Fox said. “I thought we played very well offensively for a large part of the first half. We weren’t at all pleased with how we were defending because Arkansas was shooting as well as we were.”
Georgia missed 15 of its next 18 shots after the hot start to fall behind 60-45 with 12 minutes left in the game before finishing 22 of 51 for 43.1 percent.
Georgia made 14 of 23 shots (60.9 percent) in the first half, but Arkansas nearly kept pace, making 14 of 24 (58.3 percent) in the first half. Arkansas finished the game 27 of 56 (48.2 percent), which ranked as its second-best performance in an SEC game behind 54 percent shooting in a 77-75 victory at Vanderbilt.
Georgia outrebounded Arkansas 39-28, the Hogs’ sixth negative differential of 10-plus rebounds in an SEC game this season. Yet it was still well off Georgia’s 22-rebound dominance (56-34) in the first game between the teams, a 66-61 Georgia victory in overtime in Athens, Ga.
Georgia led 35-28 when Walton Arena crowd roared to life just as Coty Clarke connected on a three-pointer for the Razorbacks.
The roar continued as Georgia missed its next three shots and the Razorbacks rallied. Fred Gulley III fed Michael Qualls for a layup, and on the next time down Clarke pitched a lob pass to Qualls for a dunk and a three-point play to give the Hogs a 36-35 lead.
Georgia Coach Mark Fox didn’t launch a full-scale lobby for his Bulldogs to be an NCAA Tournament at large selection, but he hinted that he might soon.
“If we finish third I may do that,” Fox said. “We’ve got more games to play.
We’re in third today, but there’s still games to play, so our focus has got to be on our next one.”
Georgia wraps up its SEC schedule with a home game against Mississippi State and a road game at LSU.
Former Razorback football player Cobi Hamilton won a halftime dunk contest against ex-Hog Chris Gragg and current players D’Arthur Cown and Rohan Gaines as judged by audience applause.
Mardracus Wade blocked a shot by Juwan Parker in the second half for his first block since Jan.
28, 2012, at Alabama.
Sports, Pages 26 on 03/02/2014