A second look: Freshman doesn’t pass up shot twice as Hogs beat Vanderbilt

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Arkansas guard Keyshawn Embery-Simpson made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 14.8 seconds remaining in the Razorbacks' 69-66 win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas guard Keyshawn Embery-Simpson made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 14.8 seconds remaining in the Razorbacks' 69-66 win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Given a second chance to hit a game-winning shot, Keyshawn Embery-Simpson didn't turn it down.

Embery-Simpson, a freshman guard, hit a three-point basket with 14.8 seconds left to lift the University of Arkansas to a 69-66 victory over Vanderbilt on Tuesday night in Walton Arena before an announced crowd of 6,347.

After senior guard Joe Toye hit a three-pointer to give Vanderbilt a 66-64 lead with 39.4 seconds left, Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson called timeout with 34 seconds left and put Embery-Simpson into the game for forward Gabe Osabuohien.

The Razorbacks worked the ball around and twice got it inside to 6-11 sophomore Daniel Gafford, but both times he was double-teamed and passed the ball to Embery-Simpson on the wing beyond the three-point line.

The first time Embery-Simpson got the ball from Gafford -- with 25 seconds left -- he passed the ball to Mason Jones.

When Embery-Simpson got the ball again on the seventh pass of the possession, he hit a three-pointer to give Arkansas a 67-66 lead.

"We defended well, I think," Commodores Coach Bryce Drew said. "We took away things, and then [Embery-Simpson] made a big shot. So credit him for stepping up and making a big shot."

Embery-Simpson said he knew he didn't have time to pass up another shot.

"The shot clock was going down and I was like, 'Hey, we've got to get it up,' " he said. "I was confident in me shooting it. I felt it coming off my hands and was like, 'Oh yeah, that's got to be good.' "

Embery-Simpson finished with five points and hit 2 of 5 shots, including 1 of 2 three-pointers.

"I was off balance trying my best to not get a travel call," Gafford said about his third assist of the game. "I forgot Keyshawn was over there, then I saw him at the last second, so I just made the pass and he knocked the shot down for us.

"He was in the right spot at the right time."

So was Arkansas sophomore point guard Jalen Harris, who drew a charge from Vanderbilt guard Saben Lee with eight seconds left. Toye fouled Jones with 7.6 seconds left, and the sophomore guard hit two free throws to put the Razorbacks ahead 69-66.

Vanderbilt junior forward Matt Ryan missed a three-point attempt from deep in the corner that bounced off the rim with two seconds left. Harris grabbed the rebound as Arkansas held on for the victory.

"With seven seconds left and you have to go the length of the court, it's tough to get a good look off," Drew said. "So, I was pleased he had a clean follow through and just went off the back of the rim."

The Razorbacks (14-8, 5-4 SEC) extended their winning streak to three games while handing the Commodores their 10th consecutive loss.

Gafford led Arkansas with 28 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocked shots. Freshman guard Isaiah Joe scored 18 points for the Razorbacks on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the three-point arc.

Toye led Vanderbilt (9-13, 0-9) with 18 points off the bench. Freshman forward Simisola Shittu scored 12 points.

The teams traded the lead six times in the final 4:53 after Vanderbilt rallied from a 56-46 deficit. Embery-Simpson's clutch shot kept the Commodores from completing the comeback.

"As soon as it left his hand, I knew it was going in," Joe said. "Keyshawn is a great shooter, and he's actually one of the best on the team."

Reggie Chaney's dunk with an assist from Gafford pushed the Razorbacks' lead to 56-46.

Vanderbilt went on 14-2 run and took a 60-58 lead on Lee's three-pointer with 4:53 left. Gafford tied it 60-60 with a dunk.

Shittu hit 1 of 2 free throws for a 61-60 lead for the Commodores, but Gafford's dunk put Arkansas ahead 62-61 with 2:53 left.

After Shittu hit two free throws for a 63-62 Vanderbilt advantage, Jones scored on a drive to put Arkansas ahead 64-63.

Arkansas started the second half by outscoring Vanderbilt 14-4 -- including 10 points by Gafford and Joe's three-pointer -- to move ahead 47-39 with 14:58.

Joe hit a three-point basket with 26 seconds left in the first half to pull Arkansas within 35-34 at halftime after the Razorbacks had trailed by as many as 10 points.

Arkansas will play South Carolina on Saturday in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks (11-11, 6-3) lost at Kentucky 76-48 on Tuesday night.

Game sketch

RECORDS Arkansas 14-8, 5-4 SEC; Vanderbilt 9-13, 0-9

STARS Arkansas sophomore forward Daniel Gafford (28 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists) and freshman guard Isaiah Joe (18 points). Vanderbilt senior forward Joe Toye (18 points)

TURNING POINT Freshman guard Keyshawn Embery-Simpson hit a three-point basket with 14.8 seconds left to give the Razorbacks a 67-66 lead.

KEY STAT Arkansas hit 15 of 20 free throws, including 10 of 12 by Gafford.

UP NEXT Arkansas plays South Carolina at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.

Sports on 02/06/2019


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