Hogs pocket No. 20: Late burst earns 2nd road win in row

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Sunday, February 25, 2018
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford, left, fouls Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Vasha Hunt/ via AP)
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford, left, fouls Alabama forward Braxton Key (25) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Vasha Hunt/ via AP)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Arkansas Razorbacks finished with a flourish Saturday to notch their 20th victory and seize a critical road game with a 76-73 decision over Alabama.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (20-9, 9-7) won its fourth in a row over the Crimson Tide (17-12, 8-8) and got its fifth victory in its past six games by going on a late 9-0 run before a crowd of 15,383 at Coleman Coliseum.

"Hats off to our guys," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "They hung in there and found a way to make more plays going down the stretch. This time of year, all wins are big."

Arkansas made 5 of 7 free throws in the final 32 seconds to withstand a late charge by the Tide, who hit a trio of three-pointers in the final 2:20 and got within 75-73 on John Petty's three-pointer with 3.1 seconds left.

Anton Beard hit a free throw and then missed one with 2.9 seconds left, giving Alabama a shot to tie, but Collin Sexton's three-point heave from near half court did not get close.

"I'm very disappointed for the fans," Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said. "I'm very, very disappointed in our overall effort, and I'm very disappointed in myself. You cannot just cruise into these games."

Arkansas pulled into a tie for third place in the logjam behind Auburn and Tennessee, and Alabama dropped down to a tie for seventh.

Arkansas' key stretch started on a three-point shot from Jaylen Barford, which gave the Hogs a 59-57 lead with 6:38 remaining. After a Dazon Ingram turnover, Daryl Macon hit a three-pointer from the left wing on an isolation play. Then Beard made a free throw followed by a Barford layup on the break for a 65-57 Arkansas lead in a span of 2:20.

"We knew we were going to make our run, and it came at the right time," said Macon, who led Arkansas with 17 points. "We said we had to get multiple stops and we have to execute on offense."

The Razorbacks would stretch the lead to 69-60 on a Dustin Thomas jumper with 2:41 remaining before the Crimson Tide's late rally.

Arkansas outrebounded the Crimson Tide 36-28, including seven each by Daniel Gafford and Trey Thompson, who added a team-high five assists.

"We had to come out and play with way more energy than they had because we were on their home court," Gafford said.

Gafford also had a critical putback dunk on a Macon miss with 3:23 remaining to extend Arkansas' lead to 67-59.

"That was one of our momentum plays," Gafford said.

The Hogs got key contributions from role players Thomas, Adrio Bailey and C.J. Jones.

Thomas scored a season-high 11 points, including six in a row down the stretch as Arkansas kept the Tide at bay. Thomas drove strong to the rack for a layup and a 69-60 lead after the Razorbacks beat the full-court pressure.

"I just played off instinct," Thomas said. "I just saw it and went really."

Thomas hit a jumper on a pass from Macon at the 1:53 mark, then made two free throws with 32.4 seconds left for a 73-68 lead.

"I mean, Dustin came up clutch," said Gafford, who had 11 points in 20 minutes.

Jones, a former standout at Central Park Christian in Birmingham, Ala., scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3 of 3 from three-point range.

"C.J. Jones, what a homecoming for him and doing for us what he's been doing lately, knocking down shots and letting the game come to him," Anderson said.

"I was just going ahead and playing my game," Jones said. "I wasn't trying to do too much, just playing my game and knocking down shots."

Bailey, who has played sparingly the last two weeks due to the flu, scored all seven of his points in a stretch of 2:21 in the second half, the last coming on a three-point play to put Arkansas up 56-53 with 8:05 remaining.

Arkansas, which led 35-31 at the half, has won its past 37 games in which it led at intermission, including 16 this season. The Razorbacks are the only SEC team to win all its games with a halftime lead this year.

The Razorbacks have won their past four games against Alabama and won at Coleman Coliseum in back-to-back trips for the first time since taking three in a row from 1995-1997.

Arkansas led for 29:33, while Alabama led for 7:14, all early in the second half.

"We were very fortunate because they just ran out of time," Anderson said.

Sports on 02/25/2018


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