'That's my block': Bailey's big play seals win over Valpo

By: Scottie Bordelon Scottie Bordelon's Twitter account
Published: Saturday, December 21, 2019
Adrio Bailey dunks the ball against Valparaiso on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, at Simmons Bank Arena in North Little Rock.
Adrio Bailey dunks the ball against Valparaiso on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, at Simmons Bank Arena in North Little Rock.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Adrio Bailey did not take the bait when a reporter asked where his highlight-reel block late in Arkansas' 72-68 win over Valparaiso at Simmons Bank Arena ranks for him personally.

He doesn't keep a memory bank or a list of the top plays he's made throughout his Razorbacks career. That may be the case, but his rejection of Crusaders star guard Javon Freeman-Liberty is a moment Arkansas fans will remember for a long time.

With the Razorbacks leading 68-65 with under a minute to play, Freeman-Liberty, who led Valparaiso with 21 points, drove right and past Arkansas guards Jimmy Whitt and Isaiah Joe, then rose up to attack the rim.

Almost in a singular motion, Bailey pinned Freeman-Liberty's dunk attempt to the glass and corralled the ball. After passing the ball to a teammate, Bailey pounded his chest with his right hand.

"Our defensive scheme, we have, like, a blue line, and the blue line signifies having your teammate's help side," Bailey said. "I was on the blue line, then when I saw Jimmy get beat, it was me, (Freeman-Liberty) and the rim, and he had to meet me there. I was either getting dunked on or that's my block."

Mason Jones, who added 20 points in the win, including a 3-pointer with 49.2 seconds to play to give Arkansas the lead for good, remarked, "He came out on the good side this time."

The block was Bailey's fourth of the night - he finished with five - and the cherry on top of a solid all-around game for the senior. In his 27 minutes he scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds and came away with three steals.

The Razorbacks outscored Valparaiso by six points when he was in the lineup. Saturday marked his second five-block game of the season and fourth of his career.

Bailey, according to KenPom analytics, is having a career year in that regard.

He currently holds a block rate, a percentage of opponents’ two-point shots blocked by a player while he is on the court, of 7.9 percent, which ranks fifth in the SEC and 59th nationally. Only two players standing 6-6 rank in the top 60 in the country in that category, one of whom is Bailey.

"To be honest, I don’t even think that’s Adrio’s best block," said Jones, who scored 20-plus points for the fourth time this season. "I’ve known Adrio since ninth grade, since I was fat kid in high school, and Adrio was still my friend. I’ve seen some incredible things Adrio did through high school and college.

"That block right there, it has to be in his top five because that block led to so much momentum. The crowd jumped off of it and it was a big stop. We were winning and, like he said, it was him and Freeman-Liberty, and he got a good block. I’m glad he got it."

Bailey played a key role in the dramatic finish to Saturday's game, and he also got the Razorbacks off to a hot start in the opening minutes. Prior to the under-16 media timeout, he banked in a 3-pointer from the right wing, then, two-plus minutes later, threw down a two-hand slam to give Arkansas a 12-3 lead that forced a Valparaiso timeout.

Jones picked up the assist on Bailey's dunk, and the senior admitted when he caught the ball in the left short corner that he had bad intentions going to the rim.

"When I set the little flare screen and (Jones) didn’t shoot it, in my head, I was trying to break the goal," Bailey added. "That was going through my head. I knew our energy was out, the crowd was into it and I knew at that time I had to get the crowd into it because I knew we were going to feed off them."

Not known as a threat beyond the 3-point line, Bailey made the Crusaders pay a couple of times for leaving him unattended. He knocked down a career-high two 3-pointers on three attempts.

He was 2 of 7 beyond the arc entering the game and had made only four 3-pointers in three-plus seasons at Arkansas.

"I thought Adrio was awesome," Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said. "We only made 10 threes tonight, and Adrio made two on three attempts, and then the blocks. ... (His) block on Freeman-Liberty’s dribble drive to the cup really saved the game for us."


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