Arkansas snaps SEC skid with big comeback win over Auburn

By: The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, January 20, 2021

FAYETTEVILLE — Desi Sills scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half to help Arkansas rally from a 12-point halftime deficit, and then hold on to beat Auburn 75-73 on Wednesday night.

Sills scored four straight points during an 18-10 run to give Arkansas a 74-66 lead, its largest of the game coming with 2:40 to play. The Razorbacks trailed the entire first half and by 10 points early in the second.

Auburn's Sharife Cooper answered with consecutive layups as part of a 7-0 surge that pulled the Tigers to 74-73 with 1:03 remaining. Moses Moody added a free throw for Arkansas with two seconds left and Allen Flanigan missed a 3-pointer to end it.

Sills was 7-of-12 shooting and made 8 of 10 free throws. Jalen Tate added 14 points for Arkansas (11-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference). Justin Smith and Davonte Davis had 10 points apiece. Smith's dunk stretched the Razorbacks' lead to 62-56 with about seven minutes left.

Moody, a freshman who is one of four players in the SEC ranked among the top 15 in scoring and rebounding, was held to five points on 2-of-9 shooting and had five rebounds.

Cooper scored 25 points for Auburn (8-7, 2-5). JT Thor had 12 points. Flanigan, who had reached double figures in 10 of the last 11 games, had just seven points against the Razorbacks.

Auburn plays at South Carolina on Saturday. Arkansas plays at Vanderbilt on Saturday.


FINAL — Arkansas wins 75-73. Moses Moody split a pair at the line and Auburn missed a last-second heave. Razorbacks pick up their third SEC win of the season behind 22 points from Desi Sills, 14 from Jalen Tate, 10 from Justin Smith and seven points, seven rebounds and two blocks from Jaylin Williams. Devo Davis had 10 points on 5 of 9 shooting as well.

:02.4, 2H — Sharife Cooper can’t get a tough contested layup to drop. Moses Moody rebounds and will go to the line to ice this one. Arkansas is up 1.

:25.2, 2H — Arkansas shot clock violation. Auburn ball with a chance to win it.

1:01, 2H — Sharife Cooper adds a contested layup. Arkansas’ lead is 74-73.

1:13, 2H — JD Notae entered the game for Devo Davis, and Notae threw up an airball from 3-point range. Davis re-enters immediately.

1:41, 2H — Devo Davis is stripped attempting to beat Auburn’s 2-2-1 pressure and the Tigers add a layup. Arkansas’ lead is down to 74-71. Hogs getting sloppy with the handle since Tate went out.

1:52, 2H — Desi Sills, not smartly, fouls JT Thor after rebounding a missed layup. Thor split the free throws. Tigers down 6. Arkansas then can’t get the ball inbounded. Devo Davis threw the ball away and Allen Flanigan is fouled at the rim. He splits the pair at the line. Auburn down 5.

2:27, 2H — Jalen Tate fouls out going after a loose ball. Tate had 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting, five assists, five turnovers and five steals. Auburn hit 1 of 2 free throws, cutting its deficit to 7.

2:39, 2H — Desi Sills hits the second free throw. Arkansas is up 8. He has 22 points, one shy of the career high he set at Auburn on Dec. 30.

2:40, 2H — Desi Sills attacked the rim in transition — the key to his night — and drew a foul. He hit the first and missed the second but a lane violation is going to give him another crack at the second after an Auburn timeout. Razorbacks lead 73-66.

3:27, 2H — Desi Sills adds a reverse layup. Arkansas is up 72-66. Sills has 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting. This is what you might call a slump buster.

3:51, 2H — Sharife Cooper split his two free throws. Razorbacks lead 70-66.

3:53, 2H — Late in the shot clock, Moses Moody takes JT Thor off the bounce and throws down a big one-handed slam. Razorbacks commit a foul on the other end but lead Auburn 70-65 at the final media timeout of the night. Desi Sills has 18 points, Jalen Tate 14, Devo Davis 10. Sharife Cooper has 20 for Auburn on 7 of 15 shooting. Tigers will be shooting free throws out of the break.

4:25, 2H — Sharife Cooper hits two free throws. Arkansas’ lead is 68-65.

5:01, 2H — Desi Sills found Justin Smith for an easy layup, but the Razorbacks gave up a 3 on the other end to JT Thor. Devo Davis tosses in a floater. Hogs up 5, 68-63.

5:27, 2H — Desi Sills takes Sharife Cooper off the bounce and finishes through contact in the lane. Arkansas’ lead briefly went back to six before Cooper answered with a layup. Cooper was then hit with a flop warning defensively. Sills has a team-high 18 points.

7:07, 2H — Jalen Tate hits Justin Smith for a big alley oop, and Arkansas’ lead is 62-56. It’s the Razorbacks’ biggest lead of the night. I think Smith’s ankle is doing just fine. Tate let that pass go from several feet beyond the 3-point line on the right wing. Great precision on the pass.

7:33, 2H — Auburn can’t get a shot on goal and gets a shot clock violation. Big stop for the Razorbacks. Desi Sills then attacks the rim and gets to the line. He hits both and has 16 points. He has been outstanding tonight. Something about facing Auburn, I guess. Arkansas leads 60-56. Razorbacks have possession out of the under-8 media timeout.

9:01, 2H — Arkansas is in the bonus the rest of the way. Jalen Tate drew a foul on Auburn working middle PnR with Justin Smith and he missed the first free throw. Moses Moody, though, picked up a loose ball and got his first bucket of the night. Arkansas leads 58-56.

9:47, 2H — Allen Flanigan picks up his fourth foul of the game trying to keep Desi Sills from getting to the rim. Sills splits the free throws. He has 14 points. Arkansas up 56-55.

10:37, 2H — Jaylin Williams assists on a Devo Davis layup out of a post-up. Razorbacks lead 55-53. Arkansas is plus-16 with Williams on the floor tonight.

11:15, 2H — Short floater from Devo Davis knots the score at 53 at the under-12 media timeout. That was a nice sequence from him offensively. I’ll give it to the crowd tonight. It is super enthusiastic and giving the Razorbacks a jolt of energy. Jaylin Williams has seven points, six rebounds and a couple of blocks. Razorbacks are plus-14 with him in the lineup.

12:07, 2H — Devo Davis lulled Auburn’s defense to sleep in transition and added a layup. Razorbacks back ahead 51-50. But the Tigers again answer with a 3.

13:14, 2H — Jaylin Williams gives Arkansas a lead with a big-time one-handed slam following a Desi Sills miss at the rim. Allen Flanigan, though, answers with a 3 to give Auburn the lead back, 50-49. You’ll probably see Williams’ dunk on SportsCenter tonight.

14:24, 2H — Desi Sills scores in the lane to cut Arkansas’ deficit to 47-45, the Razorbacks force a turnover then officials inexplicably stop play during a transition opportunity to get an Auburn player off the floor. Eric Musselman was livid and rightfully so. Jalen Tate later buries a free throw line jumper, and it’s a tie game at 47-47.

15:40, 2H — Jaylin Williams takes a charge on Allen Flanigan then Devo Davis adds a layup off a Desi Sills miss. Arkansas was down 2 before Sharife Cooper added a tough layup. Auburn leads the Razorbacks 47-43. That was a huge stretch for this club and it answered the call. It's a brand new ballgame.

16:51, 2H — Jaylin Williams cans a 3 from the right wing. It’s about time he pulled the trigger on one. He’s been hesitant from deep lately. Desi Sills then gets a layup to go plus the foul. The crowd is loving it. Sills is up to 11 points. Auburn’s lead is 45-41. Hogs playing with some grit — and making shots.

18:41, 2H — Jalen Tate picks up his third foul poking Sharife Cooper in the eye. Eric Musselman is leaving him on the floor. After a defensive stop, Justin Smith misses a layup that would have cut Auburn’s lead to six. Instead, the Tigers come down and get a dunk. Lead is back to 10 for Auburn.

19:45, 2H — Jalen Tate missed a left-corner 3 but Justin Smith was there for the putback. Tate then adds a floater in the lane to cut the deficit to 43-35. Jaylin Williams and Desi Sills started the second half in place of Connor Vanover and JD Notae.

HALF — Vance Jackson missed a right-corner 3 toward the end of the half and that’ll do it for a mostly ugly first half for Arkansas. Tigers lead 43-31. Jalen Tate leads the Razorbacks with 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting. He’s knocked down two 3s and has four turnovers and four steals.

Desi Sills also has eight points. Arkansas shot 12 of 30 as a team and committed 11 turnovers. The Razorbacks made 8 of their last 10 shots to end the first 20 minutes. Moses Moody did not score.

Sharife Cooper leads Auburn with 14 points and two assists. Jamal Johnson and JT Thor each added eight points. Tigers shot 59.3 percent and hit 4 of 9 from 3-point range.

:13.1, 1H — Sharife Cooper draws a blocking foul on Devo Davis. Cooper sold the body contact with a head jerk. He has 14 points after hitting both free throws. Auburn up 43-31.

:34.8, 1H — Desi Sills is fouled attempting a layup after a shot fake got his defender off his feet in the corner. He splits the free throws. Arkansas down 41-31.

1:08, 1H — Great move by Jaylin Williams in which he dribbled behind his back and added a layup brings the Razorbacks within 41-30. Terrific left-handed finish. The crowd is coming alive as the Hogs’ play improves.

1:40, 1H — Devo Davis hits Desi Sills on a backdoor cut for a layup. Deficit is down to 13. Razorbacks are now in the bonus.

2:06, 1H — Jalen Tate knocks down a 3, his second of the night. I didn’t expect Tate to be the Razorbacks’ biggest perimeter threat tonight, but that’s where this team is right now. He has 10 points to lead Arkansas. Auburn up 39-26.

2:43, 1H — Vance Jackson’s sideline out of bounds pass is thrown around Jalen Tate’s feet. He can’t grab it and it results in a foul on Tate. Arkansas has been sloppy out of timeouts tonight. JT Thor then hit a turnaround jumper. Tigers lead 39-23.

3:22, 1H — Vance Jackson knocks down his first shot of the night. It’s a 3 from the left wing. Arkansas on a 5-0 run and trails 37-23 at the under-4 media timeout. Sharife Cooper has a game-high 12 points on 5 of 9 shooting in this one. Devo Davis and Jalen Tate have swapped out checking him. Not much is working on him. Jamal Johnson has eight points for the Tigers as well. Jalen Tate leads Arkansas with seven points and Desi Sills has five.

4:15, 1H — Sharife Cooper hits his second 3 of the game. Devo Davis got out to the perimeter a tad late and paid for it. Again, he came into tonight 1 of 16 from 3 in his three games. Auburn leads 37-18.

4:43, 1H — Moses Moody catches in the left corner, attempts to dribble behind his back and commits Arkansas’ ninth turnover of the half. Razorbacks have not valued possession over the last couple of weeks. It’s been tough to watch.

5:11, 1H — Jalen Tate came up with a steal, found Justin Smith, who then hit Desi Sills for a layup. Sills is up to five points on 2 of 3 from the floor.

5:27, 1H — JD Notae turns the ball over attempting to initiate offense and JT Thor grabs the loose ball he deflected and adds a dunk on the other end. Auburn is in control, up 33-16. Eric Musselman calls for time again. That’s twice tonight.

6:09, 1H — Jalen Tate commits his third turnover of the half, and Justin Smith picks up his second foul in less than 30 seconds as a result. Tate exits the game and Ethan Henderson is in.

6:28, 1H — Jalen Tate added a score after Arkansas tied up Sharife Cooper, and the crowd was finally getting into it. But Justin Smith fouled JT Thor on a jumper attempt. He hit both free throws. Auburn 29-16.

6:59, 1H — Desi Sills scores in transition and draws a foul. Arkansas could use much more of that. He hits the free throw. Sills came into tonight’s game 5 of 20 at the rim this month. Auburn is up 27-14.

7:31, 1H — Auburn scores immediately out of the media timeout. Dylan Cardwell added a layup to push Auburn’s lead to 25-11, then the Tigers add a tip slam. It’s 27-11.

7:48, 1H — Jalen Tate hits a 3 from the right corner and BWA semi-erupts. It’s Arkansas’ first bucket since the 12:58 mark. Razorbacks are 4 of 21 from the floor and trail 23-11 at the under-8 media timeout. Jamal Johnson has eight points for the Tigers and Sharife Cooper has seven and two assists.

8:26, 1H — Jaylin Williams whistled for goaltending following a Devo Davis midrange jumper that might have gone in if it hadn't been touched. Williams took a charge on Auburn’s next possession. Typical. Still haven’t seen Vance Jackson in tonight’s game. Auburn leads 23-8.

9:20, 1H — JD Notae is whistled for traveling, and Arkansas hasn’t scored in over 3:30. Auburn leads 23-8 after the Tigers added an offensive rebound putback over Connor Vanover. Eric Musselman is ready to pull his hair out. His offense has no rhythm at all. Hogs scoring at a .381 point-per-possession clip to this point.

10:00, 1H — On a possession with literally no offensive movement, JD Notae drives the lane and tosses up a floater than misses everything. It was rebounded by Arkansas, then Jalen Tate missed a 3 from the right wing.

10:29, 1H — Sharife Cooper knocks down a 3 from the left wing and Auburn pushes its lead to 21-8. Cooper had made just 1 of 16 3-point attempts in his three games played this season. Eric Musselman burns a timeout.

11:31, 1H — Connor Vanover misses his first look from 3 tonight. He has really struggled from beyond the arc and Arkansas could really use some perimeter firepower right about now. Allen Flanigan got a layup to go assisted by Sharife Cooper on the ensuing possession.

11:47, 1H — Auburn leads Arkansas 16-8 at the under-12 media timeout. After rebounding an Allen Flanigan miss from 3, JD Notae tried to hit Jalen Tate for a layup in transition, but the pass was about two seconds too late. Luckily for the Razorbacks, a Tigers defender knocked the ball out of bounds. Arkansas is 3 of 12 from the floor and 0 of 2 from deep. Still no flow offensively whatsoever.

13:16, 1H — Allen Flanigan gets his first bucket of the night to push the run to 6-0. Justin Smith then scored inside to snap the Tigers’ run.

14:04, 1H — Sharife Cooper hit a floater in the lane then Jamal Johnson hits a 3. Eric Musselman is yelling at his guys to get out to Auburn’s shooters. The Razorbacks haven’t had an answer for Johnson going on two games.

15:08, 1H — Arkansas forces Auburn into its fourth turnover of the game, a JD Notae steal. Sharife Cooper fouled him in the open court, sending us to the first media timeout. Auburn leads 7-6. Justin Smith, Connor Vanover and Notae each have two points. Jamal Johnson leads Auburn with five.

16:09, 1H — JD Notae was beat off the bounce by Jamal Johnson for a layup. Devo Davis then entered the game and assisted to Connor Vanover for a dunk. Hogs trail 7-6.

16:44, 1H — Auburn forward Dylan Cardwell picked up his second foul and was subbed out of the game.

17:00, 1H — JD Notae drove the lane and initiated contact, drawing a foul on Auburn. He hit both free throws. Fans are already yelling at officials to “do more reffing and less talking” to players.

17:52, 1H — Jalen Tate assisted to Justin Smith for a layup to open the scoring for Arkansas. Smith, who would have dunked it if he were fully healthy, on the previous possession missed a jumper from the right short corner. Don’t like him taking fallaway jumpers.

18:51, 1H — Jamal Johnson hits a 3 to get Auburn on the board. He had a big night against Arkansas the first time around, scoring 21 points. Moments earlier, play was stopped and officials issued a flop warning to Moses Moody after missing a left-wing 3.


Arkansas' starting lineup: Jalen Tate, Moses Moody, JD Notae, Justin Smith and Connor Vanover.

First start of the season for Notae, who is Arkansas' second leading scorer at 15.1 points per game.

Smith's mobility looked improved in pre-game warmups. He will be a key tonight as the Razorbacks attempt to limit Auburn's extra possessions after launching long 3s. Smith scored five points and committed three turnovers on Saturday at Alabama in his first action since ankle surgery on Jan. 1.

Arkansas looked largely inept on the offensive end last week, scoring .78 points per possession against the Crimson Tide and LSU. Big chance for the Razorbacks to right the ship at home and kick off an important, favorable stretch of their schedule. They must be committed on the other end, too. Another week allowing opponents to shoot nearly 60% inside the arc and 40% beyond it would not bode well.

Desi Sills had a career night at Auburn on Dec. 30 with 23 points. He has been a shell of himself since (5/20 at the rim, 3/15 from 3). Curious to see if he gets going on both ends tonight. Same with Vanover. He added 17 points and five rebounds in the first meeting. Vance Jackson has been quiet of late as well.

Arkansas could use an infusion of swagger, and he and Sills could bring that.

Auburn's starters: Sharife Cooper, Allen Flanigan, Jamal Johnson, Jaylin Williams and JT Thor.

Tigers guard Justin Powell, who had nine assists against Arkansas earlier in the SEC season, won't play tonight due to a concussion. It will be his fifth consecutive game out of the lineup.

Cooper is the player to keep an eye on for the Tigers. He is the dynamic, playmaking point guard the Tigers were missing in the teams' first meeting at Auburn. Cooper, a five-star freshman guard, is averaging a shade under 22 points per game and 9.7 assists through three games played. He was ruled eligible to play on Jan. 9.

Cooper holds a usage rate of 40.3%, according to KenPom analytics, and has assisted on 63% of the Tigers' scores when he is on the floor. He is, though, struggling from the perimeter, hitting just 1 of 16 attempts so far. Something else to watch for: Auburn has shot 23.2% from 3-point range over his 210 offensive possessions. The Tigers have connected on 61.6% inside the arc, however.

Johnson had a terrific game for Auburn on Dec. 30, scoring 21 points to lead the Tigers. He has scored in double figures in all but one SEC game to this point. Flanigan is shooting 39% from 3 in league games, and Thor has been strong on the glass.

Auburn has played well defensively since Cooper joined the club, allowing .91 points per possession. Opponents have found success on the offensive glass in that span.


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