Hogs' positives don't equal success

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, January 28, 2019
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson yells out to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson yells out to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

LUBBOCK, Texas -- The University of Arkansas basketball team did a lot of things right to give itself a chance to beat No. 14 Texas Tech on the road.

The Razorbacks held the Red Raiders without a field goal for the final 7:40. They forced 21 turnovers. They had a 27-25 rebounding advantage and outscored Texas Tech 11-2 in second-chance points.

But in the end, Arkansas couldn't make a play -- or enough free throws -- to pull off the upset in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

The Red Raiders held on to win 67-64 at United Supermarkets Arena on Saturday when they kept the Razorbacks from getting off a shot in a possession coming out of a timeout with 25.7 seconds left and Texas Tech leading 65-62.

"I've got a lot of respect for Arkansas' program," Red Raiders Coach Chris Beard said. "They played well enough to win the game tonight. We're just fortunate we made enough plays."

Falling short in close games has become a painful pattern for the Razorbacks (11-8, 2-4 SEC), who resume conference play against Georgia (10-9, 1-5) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks have lost six games -- including in overtime against Texas and LSU -- that went down to the final seconds.

"It's weighing on us a lot, because there are a lot of things we've done down the stretch to get to situations where we've come back and made it close," said sophomore forward Daniel Gafford, who led Arkansas with 14 points on Saturday. "We had enough time and enough energy at the end to come up with the win [at Texas Tech], but it just didn't play out in our favor."

After trailing the Red Raiders 60-48, the Razorbacks pulled within 64-62, but Jarrett Culver put Texas Tech up 65-62 by hitting 1 of 2 free throws with 31.2 seconds left.

Arkansas had a chance to score a quick basket to make it a one-point game -- and try to force a turnover or make the Red Raiders hit clutch free throws -- or go for a three-pointer that could send the game into overtime.

But the Razorbacks couldn't get off a shot and turned the ball over with 6.3 seconds to play.

"We should have been able to get a shot off," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "We got shots off during the whole game."

Davide Moretti, who led Texas Tech (16-4) with a career-high 21 points, hit two free throws with five seconds left to give the Red Raiders a 67-62 lead and clinch the victory.

"I'm just disappointed for our guys," Anderson said. "Not discouraged, because I thought we came out and played hard against one of the better teams in the country. I was proud of our guys. I thought we grew up a little bit more. I thought we got better.

"But we're not into moral victories. We didn't come over here to lay it up. We came over to try and dunk it, but we didn't."

Arkansas hit 18 of 26 free throws for 69.8 percent, which exceeded its season average of 64.5 percent, but the Razorbacks were 10 of 17 in the second half.

"That's a big difference in the game," Anderson said. "If you look at the score, it came back to haunt us."

Arkansas hit 79 of 129 free throws (61.2 percent) in losing to Texas, Western Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Florida, LSU and Texas Tech by a combined 22 points. That includes 13 of 24 free throws in losing to Texas 73-71, 9 of 16 in losing to Western Kentucky 78-77, 15 of 26 in losing to Florida 57-51, and 17 of 28 in losing to LSU 94-88 in overtime.

"Our kryptonite right now is free throws," said Gafford, the Razorbacks' Superman who hit 2 of 5 free throws at Texas Tech and is 68 of 120 for the season. "But we're working on it and no lie, we're going to have it out of us by the end of the season. I promise you that."

Anderson said one plus is that the Razorbacks are attempting high numbers of free throws. They had seven more attempts than the Red Raiders, who hit 13 of 19.

"We're just not making them," Anderson said. "We've got to continue to work on them."

Gafford said while the loss was disappointing, there were positives to be taken from it, notably Arkansas rallying when Texas Tech looked ready to put the game away with less than 12 minutes left.

"Some young teams, they lay down when they get behind by 12 late in the game and lose by 20," Gafford said. "We got in the huddle and talked it up, and we started playing the basketball we know we can play."

Gafford said he believes Arkansas can have a strong finish in SEC play.

"We're always going to have a run in us," he said. "We've just got to bring it out of us."

Sports on 01/28/2019

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