Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
In the lane:
Defense a big deal for Hogs
Arkansas guard Keyshawn Embery-Simpson guards Missouri guard Jordan Geist during a game Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas picked up its defense in Wednesday's 72-60 victory over Missouri on Wednesday as Coach Mike Anderson had been hoping.
The Razorbacks had been allowing a league-high 82.4 points per game in league play before squelching the Tigers by squeezing out 24 turnovers and converting them into 27 points.
"Our defense stepped up tonight," Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford said. "We got back to playing the defense we were playing before."
The Razorbacks deflected and intercepted numerous passes by poaching in the passing lanes.
"That's Hog basketball," said guard Isaiah Joe, who hit 7 of 12 three-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points. "Speeding them up, creating turnovers and getting points off of them. That's the fastest 40."
The 24 turnovers matched a season high for an Arkansas opponent.
"I think what really sums it up ... was 24 turnovers and 27 points off those turnovers," Missouri Coach Cuonzo Martin said. "They did a good job being aggressive and getting into the passing lanes against us. When we turned the ball over, they capitalized and scored the ball."
Missouri has 20-plus turnovers in three road games and lost all three of them, including a season-high 25 turnovers in a 76-59 loss at Iowa State.
Taking a lead
The Razorbacks went nearly 2 1/2 games without taking a lead before doing it late in the first half against Missouri.
Arkansas rallied back from a 17-4 deficit with a 26-12 run to take the lead on Keyshawn Embery-Simpson's banked three-pointer with 2:10 left in the half.
That marked the Hogs' first lead since a Daniel Gafford shot in overtime put Arkansas ahead of LSU 83-81 on Jan. 12. The Razorbacks led for 30 seconds against LSU and for 33 seconds in the first half against Missouri, as Jeremiah Tilmon tipped in a missed three-pointer for Missouri at the 1:37 mark.
Arkansas took a 38-37 lead on Mason Jones' three-pointer a the 17:39 mark of the second half and never relinquished it again.
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford provided one of the game's biggest offensive highlights early in the second half.
Gafford collected a missed jumper by Mason Jones and slammed it with ferocity to give the Hogs a 43-39 lead with 15:45 remaining.
Arkansas point guard Jalen Harris later parted two Missouri defenders and drove to the rim for a two-handed dunk at 7:00 for a 55-52 Hogs' lead.
Daniel Gafford notched his eighth double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds and made a weird play to go along with it. He also had a season-low zero fouls in 35 minutes.
The Razorbacks improved to 7-1 in games when Gafford posts a double-double.
Gafford made the final shot of the first half in uncommon fashion. Gafford rebounded a missed three-point shot from Isaiah Joe with about five seconds left and passed on the perimeter to Keyshawn Embery-Simpson. The guard passed up a three-point try, drove the left side of the lane and fed Gafford on the right block. Gafford was falling backward, toward the end line, when he made a high-arcing shot at the buzzer.
"I ain't never hit a shot like that before," Gafford said. "I knew time was running down and there was two seconds left on the clock."
The Razorbacks had another long scoring drought early in the game when they went 7:03 between baskets by Jalen Harris and Desi Sills.
The Razorbacks pulled within 4-2 on Harris' 18-footer at the 18:46 mark and fell behind 14-2 before Sills converted a steal into a layup with 11:43.
Arkansas also had a scoring drought of 7:57 in the first half against Florida, a period in which the Gators went on a 10-0 run.
Arkansas women's basketball Coach Mike Neighbors played guitar to the Journey song "Any Way You Want It" with the Hog Wild band during a break in the action in the first half.
Neighbors, in his second season, has guided the Razorbacks to a 14-5 record, 3-2 in the SEC, with back-to-back victories over Vanderbilt and at Tennessee. They host Alabama at 7 tonight at Walton Arena.
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson and Missouri Coach Cuonzo Martin are two of the three current SEC coaches who have guided a pair of SEC teams.
Anderson has led Arkansas to three NCAA Tournaments and one NIT in his first seven seasons. He was coach at Missouri for five years, leading the Tigers to a 31-7 record and an Elite Eight appearance in 2008-09.
Martin coached at Tennessee for three seasons (2011-12 through 2013-14) and took the Missouri job in 2017.
Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl has also coached two SEC teams: Tennessee (2005-11) and Auburn since 2014.
Sports on 01/24/2019
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