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 four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Hogs can't close on road again, fall at Baylor
Arkansas guard Jalen Graham (11) reacts after the final play of his team's loss to Baylor after an NCAA college basketball game in Waco, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
WACO, Texas — Under the circumstances, the University of Arkansas men’s basketball team couldn’t have asked for a better shot.
A shot to send Saturday’s game against No. 17 Baylor into overtime at the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Instead the No. 17 Bears held on to beat the Razorbacks 67-64 before a packed crowd of 10,627 in the Ferrell Center when Joseph Pinion missed a three-point attempt from the corner — his favorite spot — at the buzzer.
It was the only shot attempt of the game for Pinion, a freshman guard who played a total of 2 minutes and 51 seconds and in the second half played only the final 18 seconds.
“I trust Joseph to make that shot,” Arkansas senior Jalen Graham said. “We fought. That’s all we wanted to do.
“We kept ourselves in the game. For us being away I felt like it was a good performance, but we just wanted the ‘W.’ ”
Pinion is now 10 of 27 on three-pointers this season.
“Joseph had a good look,” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said. “Just sometimes a shot doesn’t go. It’s tough to ask a guy [to hit a last-second shot] who sat for that long.”
Baylor freshman guard Keyonte George, who scored 24 points, hit two free throws with 4.3 seconds left to give the Bears a 67-64 lead.
LJ Cryer then fouled Arkansas junior guard Davonte “Devo” Davis with 2.3 seconds left.
Ideally for Arkansas, Davis would have hit the first free throw and missed the second with the Razorbacks getting a rebound to tie or win the game.
Davis missed the first free free throw, but senior forward Kamani Johnson and Graham each appeared to get a hand on the ball and tip it in the corner to Pinion, who moved from a spot to the right of Davis as soon as his free throw went up.
“I want to thank God that last shot didn’t go in,” Baylor Coach Scott Drew said. “That was a great tip play. I didn’t see that one coming.”
Pinion caught the ball and got off a shot just in time to count if it had gone in, but it hit the top of the backboard.
“Devo makes the first one and we miss the second and we execute that, maybe we walk out of here with a win,” Musselman said.
Musselman said it’s a play called “dagger” the Razorbacks have worked on since the summer. He got the play from Hubie Brown, who was the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies’ coach when Musselman was one of the team’s assistants.
“They surprisingly got to the spots exactly like we’re supposed to,” Musselman said of the Razorbacks reacting well to Davis missing the first free throw. “It was a Hubie Brown play that we work on all the time and finally had a chance to execute it.
“They know exactly what to do.”
Arkansas (14-7) took a 53-49 lead with 6:09 left on freshman forward Jordan Walsh’s short jumper with an assist from Graham.
The Bears (16-5) went on a 10-0 run, with George scoring the final seven points, to move ahead 62-55 with 1:21 left.
The Razorbacks closed within 63-62 on a three-point play by Davis with 19 seconds left.
After Cryer hit two free throws with 10.7 seconds left, Musselman called timeout.
Musselman said the Razorbacks had three options for a three-point shot, but when no one broke open, Davis drove to the basket and hit a layup with 4.8 seconds left to pull Arkansas within 65-64.
“Devo found a seam in the defense,” Musselman said. “We wanted the three, but if we didn’t have a clean look at a three, [drive to the basket] instead of just hoisting up the shot.
“I thought the clock management by the guys on the floor was really, really good. There was no panic.”
Drew said it was a 51% to 49% decision to foul Davis with 2.3 seconds left.
“The reason is, they got two offensive rebounds where they got put-backs,” Drew said. “So that was concerning, but it felt right. Sometimes you go with your gut.
“After the corner three went up, it didn’t feel as good. But sometimes it’s better to be blessed and lucky than good.”
Arkansas shot 50.9% (27 of 53) to Baylor’s season-low 33.9% (20 of 59). But the Bears hit 21 of 24 free throws and the Razorbacks hit 6 of 11 for a 15-point difference at the line.
“I mean, if you look at the stat sheet and you watched the game, the difference obviously was the free throws attempted,” Musselman said.
The Razorbacks shot 4 of 11 on three-pointers to the Bears’ 6 of 18, an indication both teams were driving to the basket.
“I thought we did a good job trying to attack the rim,” Musselman said. “In the first half offensively we were phenomenal.
“Second half, we just didn’t get to the foul line at all.”
The Razorbacks were 3 of 4 on free throws in the second half with all of the attempts in the final 1:10, when junior guard Ricky Council hit two for the last of his game-high 25 points.
Arkansas was called for 24 fouls to 18 for Baylor. In the second half, the foul calls were 14 on the Razorbacks and eight on the Bears.
“It’s away,” Graham said of the road team not getting the same calls as the home team. “We feel like that’s always going to happen away.
“We just have to keep playing hard. We’re not going to get punked. We’re not going to back down.
“That’s not who we are. So we’re going to keep pushing and we’re going to push back.”
Cryer, a junior guard, scored 20 points and junior forward Jalen Bridges added 10 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals for the Bears.
Davis had 16 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds, but also 5 of the Razorbacks’ 15 turnovers. Freshman guard Anthony Black, who limped noticeably for much of the game, had 7 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
Graham played 25 minutes off the bench and had 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
Arkansas outscored Baylor 25-8, including 12 points by Council, the final 9:40 of the first half to take a 33-27 halftime lead.
“Coming into halftime, we were all frustrated,” Drew said. “But you look at it, and I told the guys we’re shooting 24%, they’re shooting 61%, and it’s a two-possession game. We’re not going to shoot 24% in the second half and we’re going to play better defense. “
The Bears shot 46.2% in the second half, won their sixth consecutive game and improved to 10-2 at home, where their two losses were to No. 5 Kansas State and No. 11 TCU.
The Razorbacks fell to 0-5 in road games.
“The one thing that you always want from your basketball team is to play as hard as they possibly can,” Musselman said. “So feel really bad for our guys in our locker room, because the effort was outstanding.”
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