NATIONAL INVITATION TOURNAMENT SECOND ROUND:
Hogs fall in 31-8 hole; Bears fend off charge
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson watches play against the South Carolina during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the second round of the Southeastern Conference men's tournament, Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
BERKELEY, Calif. - A nightmarish first half effectively ended the season for Arkansas as it lost 75-64 to California on Monday night in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament at Haas Pavilion.
The Razorbacks were scoreless for 8½ minutes and missed 14 consecutive shots during an early stretch that dug them into a quick hole from which they couldn’t quite recover in that ended after midnight Central time.
Arkansas’ first postseason trip since 2008 ended in a flurry of missed shots and missed opportunities instead of moving within a game of reaching Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals.
No. 2 seed Cal advances to face No. 1 SMU on Wednesday in Dallas for the right to head to New York City.
The Golden Bears (21-13) led by 24 points in the second half before the Razorbacks (22-12) made it interesting. Arkansas’ push started with a 10-3 run, but Arkansas outscored Cal 12-2 during another spurt that made it a 63-55 game with 4:01 to play.
Cal scored the next four points and the Razorbacks’ comeback attempt stalled in the final minutes.
Freshman Bobby Portis tried to carry the No. 3 seed Hogs early, but he had no help. Portis was the only Arkansas player to score during the game’s first 15 minutes.
A Portis jumper with 15:17 left in the first half cut Cal’s lead to 9-6, but the ugly stretch of scoreless basketball followed.
Cal outscored Arkansas 16-0 until Portis scored on a layup with 6:45 remaining in the half - ending the treacherous stretch but doing little to change the momentum.
Arkansas received a little life when senior Fred Gulley threw down a ferocious dunk over Cal’s Jeff Powers. Even that was nearly spoiled when officials initially called Gulley for a charging foul before changing it to a blocking foul on Powers. Gulley converted the three-point play, but the Golden Bears led 31-11.
The Razorbacks outscored the Bears 7-0 to get within 34-21, but Cal still led 38-23 at the half.
Arkansas had 16 more shot attempts than the Bears in the half, but shot 25 percent to Cal’s 62.5 percent. The Hogs missed their first 10 three-pointers and were 1 for 12 from beyond the arc in the opening half.
Arkansas scored the first four points of the second half to make it an 11-point game and deliver a sliver of hope, but Cal countered with 13 consecutive points by Cal. The back-breaking sequence came when Michael Qualls’ dunk attempt was blocked by Cal’s David Kravish, who fed ahead for a wide-open dunk by Bears freshman Jabari Bird, who led his team with 19 points.
Still, the Razorbacks somehow managed to tighten things down the stretch and put some uneasiness in the minds of the sparse Cal crowd of 2,518. But ultimately, the early hole and the rough stretch to open the second half was too much to overcome.
Ky Madden led Arkansas with 15 points, including 12 in the second half. Alandise Harris and Portis both finished with 12 points and Portis added 10 rebounds.
Arkansas (22-12) DATE OPPONENT TIME/RESULT Nov. 8 SIU-Edwardsville W, 99-65 Nov. 15 La.-Lafayette W, 76-63 Nov. 18 SMU W, 89-78 Nov. 25 California# L, 85-77 Nov. 26 Minnesota# W, 87-73 Nov. 27 Gonzaga# L, 91-81 Dec. 3 SE Louisiana W, 111-65 Dec. 7 Clemson W, 74-68 Dec. 12 Savannah St. W, 72-43 Dec. 19 Tennessee-Martin W, 102-56 Dec. 21 South Alabama% W, 72-60 Dec. 28 High Point W, 89-48 Jan. 4 Texas-San Antonio W, 104-71 Jan. 8 at Texas A&M* L, 69-53 Jan. 11 Florida* L, 84-82 (OT) Jan. 14 Kentucky* W, 87-85 (OT) Jan. 18 at Georgia* L, 66-61 (OT) Jan. 22 at Tennessee* L, 81-74 Jan. 25 Auburn* W, 86-67 Jan. 28 Missouri* L, 75-71 Feb. 1 at LSU* L, 88-74 Feb. 5 Alabama* W, 65-58 Feb. 8 at Vanderbilt* W, 77-75 Feb. 13 at Missouri* L, 86-85 Feb. 15 LSU W, 81-70 Feb. 19 South Carolina* W, 71-64 Feb. 22 at Mississippi St.* W, 73-69 Feb. 27 at Kentucky* W, 71-67 (OT) Mar. 1 Georgia* W, 87-75 Mar. 5 Mississippi* W, 110-80 Mar. 8 at Alabama* L, 83-58 Mar. 13 South Carolina^ L, 71-69 Mar. 18 Indiana State& W, 91-71 Mar. 24 at California$ L, 75-64 #Maui Invitational %Verizon Arena, North Little Rock *SEC game ^SEC Tournament, Atlanta & NIT first round $ NIT second round
Game sketch RECORDS Arkansas 22-12, California 21-13 STARS Cal freshman guard Jabari Bird (19 points on 7-of-8 shooting) and junior forward David Kravish (13 points, 8 rebounds) TURNING POINT The Bears jumped out to a 31-8 lead the first 15 minutes. KEY STAT Arkansas started 4 of 30 from the field.
Sports, Pages 17 on 03/25/2014