Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year three times.
Jones confident in clutch time
Arkansas guard Mason Jones reacts to a call during a game against Montana on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas guard Mason Jones has saved his big shots for big games.
The Razorbacks have 10 victories over Power 5 conference teams since last season when Jones transferred from Connors (Okla.) State College, and the 6-5 junior has provided the game-winning points three times in the final seconds.
Arkansas men vs Northern Kentucky
WHEN 4 p.m. Saturday
WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS Arkansas 6-0; Northern Kentucky 5-2
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
INTERNET SEC Network-Plus
Jones' latest clutch play came Monday night when he banked in a three-point shot from 25 feet with 0.1 seconds left in overtime to lift Arkansas to a 62-61 victory at Georgia Tech.
Last season against Indiana, Jones hit the first of two free throws with 2.5 seconds left -- and purposely missed the second so the clock would run out -- for a 72-71 victory in Walton Arena.
In the Razorbacks' only victory over a nationally ranked team last season, Jones scored on a drive with 22 seconds left as Arkansas beat No. 19 LSU 90-89 in Baton Rouge.
"I think he likes it," Razorbacks Coach Eric Musselman said of Jones' last-second heroics. "Some guys rise to the occasion, some guys shy away from it. I think Mason wants to take big shots."
Musselman didn't want Arkansas to inbound the ball and try to score against a set defense after Georgia Tech took a 61-59 lead with 21 seconds left in overtime on James Banks' basket, so he didn't call a timeout to set up a play.
When the Yellow Jackets double-teamed Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe -- the team's best perimeter shooter -- he passed the ball to Jones, who took three dribbles and launched a shot over Asanti Price.
"It gives me a lot of confidence knowing that my teammates really trust in me, knowing they want the ball in my hands in the last couple of seconds," Jones said. "It feels amazing to know that they can count on me to knock that shot down when we need it."
Replays of the shot went viral on social media and some people added music to the video, including the theme from the Titanic movie.
"It was crazy because everybody was blowing my phone sending me all the videos with different music," Jones said. "After the game I didn't really pay attention to it.
"I didn't get on social media at all, and that's why I had a late response on Twitter [on Tuesday]. I just wanted to cherish the moment with my teammates instead of going straight to social media."
Jones led the Razorbacks (6-0) with 24 points at Georgia Tech and is averaging a team-high 18.5 going into Saturday's game against Northern Kentucky (5-2) in Walton Arena. He has scored at least 14 points in five games -- including a career-high 32 in the opener against Rice -- but was held to 6 points and had 4 turnovers in 21 minutes against Texas Southern.
Musselman said he kept Jones on the bench for the final 13:40 of the Texas Southern game because he needed to be more focused on both ends of the court.
"I don't think I lost any focus in that game, but I feel like I could have been more focused," Jones said. "I came out probably lackadaisical, but I'm glad [Musselman] did that because it was a learning lesson.
"It was tough to deal with, but when we sat down and talked about it, I understand everything and it was really on me."
Musselman talked with Jones about taking on more of a leadership role.
"I think when you coach players, your relationship matters," Musselman said. "And Mason and I communicate all the time, whether it's by text or a phone call.
"To me, he is all bought in, and I think you can coach a guy harder or be more real with him the realer your relationship is.
"He knows I want him to be successful. They all know it, but some guys you just have a stronger bond and stronger relationship with, and he and I have a really strong relationship.
"Therefore I think I can coach him to try to squeeze out every ounce of his God-given ability."
Sports on 11/29/2019
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