Arkansas beats Vandy, advances in SEC Tournament

By: Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Arkansas guard Mason Jones (15) dribbles around a Vanderbilt defender during an SEC Tournament game Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas guard Mason Jones (15) dribbles around a Vanderbilt defender during an SEC Tournament game Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn.

— Mason Jones scored 22 points before fouling out, and the 11th-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks beat No. 14 seed Vanderbilt 86-73 Wednesday night in the last Southeastern Conference Tournament game open to the general public.

The SEC announced a few minutes before tip-off that the league was joining other Power Five conferences in closing the rest of this event to all but players, essential staff and credentialed media. The decision wasn't made inside Bridgestone Arena until halftime with fans booing as soon as the P.A. announcer began talking.

Arkansas (20-12) won its sixth straight over Vanderbilt and now will play No. 6 seed South Carolina on Thursday night in the second round. The Razorbacks have reached the semifinals in three of the last five league tournaments and improved to 27-27 all-time at this event.

Jones, the SEC's leading scorer and The Associated Press' co-SEC player of the year, was 10 of 11 at the free throw line before fouling out with 1:45 left. Desi Sills added 20, Isaiah Joe had 18 before fouling out late and Jimmy Whitt had 12.

Vanderbilt (11-21) snapped a two-game winning streak. The Commodores now have lost six of their last seven opening games at the SEC tournament, spanning three different coaches.

Saben Lee led Vanderbilt with a game-high 30 points before fouling out in the final minute. Scotty Pippen Jr. added 16, Dylan Disu had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Jordan Wright added 10.

Pippen opened the game with a 3-pointer for Vandy. Then Jones scored the next seven points to put Arkansas ahead to stay. Both teams struggled to shoot with the shot clock off for a bit, forcing the public address announcer to count off the final 10 seconds.

Vanderbilt missed 19 of 20 shots and went 9:23 without a field goal. Arkansas had its stretches missing shots, but the Razorbacks still jumped out to a double-digit lead. They were up 25-9 with 6:04 left on a 3-pointer by Joe and led 38-26 at halftime.

Arkansas opened the second half shooting much better and pushed its lead to as much as 52-32. Vanderbilt pulled within 59-48 on a 16-7 run capped by a three-point play by Lee. Sills answered with a 3, and Vanderbilt never got closer than 10 with 2:34 left.

BIG PICTURE

Arkansas: The Razorbacks came in with the nation's best 3-point defense, and they held their 20th opponent to 29% or worse shooting outside the arc. Vanderbilt just 6 of 24 (25%).

Vanderbilt: The Commodores' biggest issue all season has been shooting woes leading to long scoring droughts. This was the second time Arkansas had held them to 25% or worse from 3-point range. ... Disu had his fifth double-double of the season.

UP NEXT

Arkansas plays South Carolina on Thursday night.

Vanderbilt: Coach Jerry Stackhouse tries to build on a rough first season and will get leading scorer Saben Lee back. He also started three freshmen in this game with Pippen starting his 31st of the season.

EARLIER

Final | Arkansas 86, Vanderbilt 73

Mason Jones led Arkansas with 22 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals and the Razorbacks advanced to Day 2 of the SEC Tournament, cruising past Vanderbilt.

Arkansas will face South Carolina on Thursday night. The Razorbacks lost to the Gamecocks in Bud Walton Arena in the teams' only meeting this season. Jones scored 34 points in an Arkansas loss.

Jones, the Associated Press co-SEC player of the year, got the Razorbacks off to a good start with seven quick points in the first half and they never looked back. Desi Sills added 20 points on 5 of 6 from 3-point range and Isaiah Joe pitched in 18.

Saben Lee led Vanderbilt with 30 points.

1:07, 2H | Arkansas 78, Vanderbilt 67

Eric Musselman was given a technical foul after he did not like officials calling a jump ball when Jeantal Cylla fairly clearly dove on the ball and called for time. Saben Lee made a half-hearted effort to get on the ball.

Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe have both fouled out, so the Razorbacks are playing a rather interesting bunch right now - Harris, Whitt, Sills, Cylla and Bailey.

Jones finished with 22 points and Joe added 18. Sills has 18 at the moment. Jones added six assists, six rebounds and three steals as well. Harris has five assists in a game for the first time since TCU in late January.

Lee has 26 for Vanderbilt.

3:11, 2H | Arkansas 71, Vanderbilt 58

Desi Sills has been flat out phenomenal in this game. He is up to 18 points on 5 of 5 from 3-point range.

He knocked down a left-wing 3 to halt a mini Vanderbilt run, then assisted on a layup to Reggie Chaney immediately after. Terrific run from him tonight. Arkansas is plus-7 with him on the floor.

Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe each have four fouls at this point. Jones leads with 22 points, Sills 18 and Joe 13. Joe has buried a pair of nice midrange jumpers off the bounce in this one, which is great to see.

Saben Lee has a game-high 23 points for Vanderbilt.

7:49, 2H | Arkansas 62, Vanderbilt 48

Saben Lee is doing all he can to keep the Commodores in this game. He has a game-high 22 points on 7 of 12 shooting and has been fantastic tonight.

He just finished an and-1, getting tough layup to drop over the outstretched arm of Reggie Chaney.

Desi Sills, though, buried his fourth 3 of the game - he is 4 of 4 from deep - to extend Arkansas' lead. Mason Jones also picked the pocket of Dylan Disu and went the other way and drew a foul. He'll be at the line when play resumes. He has drawn seven fouls tonight, one off of his average per 40 minutes played.

11:31, 2H | Arkansas 54, Vanderbilt 38

The Commodores went on a mini 4-0 run to cut the Razorbacks' lead to 14, but Jalen Harris dribbled his way through the full-court pressure and found Reggie Chaney under the rim for a score.

Chaney shot-faked a Vanderbilt defender off his feet before throwing down a big two-handed dunk. He just loves dunking on Commodores apparently. He's got three big ones against them.

Mason Jones leads Arkansas with 18 points and Desi Sills has 12 on 4 of 5 shooting and 3 of 3 from deep. He has now hit at least three 3s in five of his eight games off the bench this season.

Harris playing well, too. He has four assists in a game for the first time in over a month - Feb. 8. Arkansas is plus-13 when he is on the floor tonight.

15:56, 2H | Arkansas 47, Vanderbilt 30

The Razorbacks are off to a great start in the second half thanks to a fairly unlikely source.

Jalen Harris has hit two shots, a midrange jumper left of the lane and a 3 from the top of the key, to spark Arkansas' burst. Mason Jones and Jimmy Whitt have added buckets at the rim, too. Jones is a menace in transition.

Jones is up to a game-high 16 points and four assists. Whitt has three assists also. The Razorbacks are shooting 45.6 percent from the floor and are 7 of 18 (38.9 percent) from 3-point range.

Saben Lee is up to 14 points for the Commodores, and Scotty Pippen Jr. has nine.

Half | Arkansas 38, Vanderbilt 26

Mason Jones turned in a terrific first half and the Razorbacks lead the Commodores by 12 at the break.

The AP co-SEC player of the year added 14 points on 4 of 8 shooting. He also grabbed three rebounds, handed out two assists and had one steal in 17 minutes. Desi Sills chipped in nine off the bench and Isaiah Joe scored eight as well on a pair of 3s and a pull-up jumper left of the lane.

Jimmy Whitt also has six points on 3 of 8 from the floor.

Saben Lee was about the only threat Vanderbilt floored in the first half. He scored a team-high 12 points and half came at the free throw line. Scotty Pippen Jr. scored seven as well on 1 of 5 from the floor.

Vanderbilt shot only 24 percent in the first half. Three of the six scores have come from beyond the arc, and they committed nine turnovers.

Arkansas is winning the rebounding battle 21-20, is up 10-0 in bench points and 9-2 in fastbreak points. That was a solid first half from the Razorbacks. I really wanted to see them more connected defensively, and that's what we saw for the most part.

The only gripe Eric Musselman has is Arkansas fouled 11 times and put the Commodores on the line 14 times.

3:38, 1H | Arkansas 27, Vanderbilt 14

Desi Sills and Isaiah Joe have added the Razorbacks' last nine points and Arkansas took its biggest lead of the night at one point - 16 points.

Sills has a team-high nine points, Joe has eight and Jones seven. Joe just picked up his second foul to send the game into the final media stoppage of the first half. The Razorbacks have struggled to close first halves quite often in SEC play. Let's see how this plays out, and if Arkansas can maintain or extend its lead.

Scotty Pippen Jr. has a team-high six points for the Commodores, who are shooting 4 of 23 from the floor and 2 of 12 from 3-point range. They have turned it over eight times, including twice when players have stepped out of bounds on the sideline.

7:57, 1H | Arkansas 18, Vanderbilt 7

Arkansas is in firm control of this first half. Vanderbilt seemingly can't buy a single shot, missing its last nine shots and 15 of its last 16.

The Razorbacks haven't exactly been lighting it up offensively either, but Desi Sills has added five big points off the bench with a left-wing 3 and tip-in following an Isaiah Joe miss at the rim. He and Reggie Chaney have combined, seriously, for three blocks already. Chaney is plus-7 in his five minutes.

Joe and Jimmy Whitt are a combined 2 of 12 from the floor, and Joe is 1 of 6 from deep.

Arkansas' halfcourt trap has been very effective. It has taken the ball out of Saben Lee's hands and into the hands of Isaiah Rice, who is already 0 of 4 shooting and 0 of 3 from distance. Lee has just two points through 12-plus minutes.

11:59, 1H | Arkansas 13, Vanderbilt 7

Mason Jones opened the night strong with seven points, but it has been Isaiah Joe, Jimmy Whitt and Adrio Bailey chipping in since for the Razorbacks.

Joe knocked down a 3 from the left wing, Whitt added a score near the rim and Bailey split a pair of free throws after drawing a foul in the restricted area. Joe is 1 of 4 from 3 tonight, 0 of 2 in the corners, where he has struggled all season.

Whitt has a team-high four rebounds, and Joe has taken a couple of charges. He probably should have been given the benefit of the doubt on a third, too.

Vanderbilt is 1 of its last 11 from the floor. Scotty Pippen Jr. has a team-high four points for the Commodores.

15:50, 1H | Arkansas 7, Vanderbilt 3

The Razorbacks got off to a bit of a slow start against the Commodores. Mason Jones got Arkansas on the board with a pair of free throws at the 17:37 mark.

He then added a 3 from the left wing in transition and a layup on a play that has worked time and time again this season, especially of late. He is 2 of 3 from the floor.

Scotty Pippen Jr. has the only bucket for Vanderbilt, a 3 in the game's opening minute. The Commodores are 0 of 5 since.

Pregame

Arkansas' starting lineup: Isaiah Joe, Mason Jones, Jimmy Whitt, Jalen Harris and Ethan Henderson.

This is Harris' first start since Feb. 22 at Missouri. He had two points and four assists in the teams' first meeting. Also Henderson's fifth consecutive starting nod and sixth in seven games.

Going to be interested to see how Jones comes out and plays tonight one day after not being named SEC player of the year by the league's coaches and sharing the award by Associated Press voters. He said in an interview on Tuesday that he has a chip on his shoulder and has not peaked yet. We'll see if he plays with an edge tonight.

Joe has scored 20-plus points in four of his five games since returning from injury. He's been really solid, shooting 36 percent from 3-point range. Joe knocked down 6 of 15 attempts beyond the arc on Saturday at Texas A&M, his most in a game since hitting seven at Ole Miss in January.

Curious, too, if Adrio Bailey bounces back from four straight so-so games offensively. He has scored just nine points since Feb. 26 vs. Tennessee and has not rebounded all that well either (11). I have to believe he will play with passion and a sense of urgency.

Vanderbilt's starters: Saben Lee, Scotty Pippen, Maxwell Evans, Braelee Albert and Dylan Disu.

The Commodores enter the SEC Tournament playing some pretty good basketball. They won their last two SEC regular-season games against Alabama, on the road, and South Carolina in Nashville. Vanderbilt averaged 85 points per game in the two wins - 87 vs. the Crimson Tide, 83 vs. the Gamecocks - and made 21 3s.

Lee is coach Jerry Stackhouse's go-to weapon on the offensive end. He takes better than 30 percent of the team's shots when he is in the lineup. Lee also ranks fourth in the SEC in conference games in assist rate, third in usage rate and second in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. He's the complete package, and he is averaging 28.5 points in the last two games.

Disu, a 6-9 freshman, has been really solid on the defensive glass in SEC games. He has also taken a team-high 110 3s in conference play, hitting 28.2 percent. He is a threat. Pippen is top 15 in the league in 3-point shooting at 37.7 percent. He is 21 of 25 at the line on Vanderbilt's two-game winning streak.

The Commodores owned the SEC's worst offense in terms of efficiency in conference-only games and the No. 13 defense in terms of efficiency.

Running updates by Scottie Bordelon of WholeHogSports.com

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