Led by 18, trailed by six.
FAYETTEVILLE - Though losing the 18-point lead they accumulated during the first half, the Arkansas Razorbacks made up a 6-point deficit in the final 4:43 of the second half to lead by two in the final 57 seconds, survive two missed Missouri threes, and prevail 65-63 Saturday evening at Walton Arena.
The SEC success over Coach Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers snapped Arkansas’ 3-game SEC skid enabling Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks to be 12-5 overall, 2-3 in the SEC going into Wednesday night’s SEC game at Florida.
Missouri, led by guard Kassius Robertson’s game-high 26 points, falls to 12-5 overall. 2-2 in the SEC and hosts Tennessee Wednesday for its next SEC game.
Leading 36-28 at intermission after peaking at 30-12, Arkansas first trailed, 57-53 in the second half at 7:15 by two Kevin Puryear free throws after Mizzou rebounded the second of two Jeremiah Tilmon missed free throws and fed Robertson hitting one of his six 3-pointers.
Missouri peaked 59-53 on Robertson’s deuce jumper at 4:43.
Three times Arkansas drew within one before tying, 63-63 after Razorbacks senior guard Daryl Macon drew a Missouri charge before Arkansas senior forward Dustin Thomas hit 1 of 2 free throws at 1:37.
The Razorbacks forged ahead set up by a foul on Tilmon, an offensive foul setting a vicious pick on Arkansas senior guard Anton Beard.
Macon, a game-high eight assists, lobbed a beauty to 6-11 freshman Daniel Gafford, Arkansas’ leading scorer with 15 points, for the tie-breaking 65-63 thunder dunk at :57.
“Daryl’s a good passer,” Gafford said. “He tells me before every game if I'm open, he's going to dime me. He tells me I'll be diming you.”
Tillmon fouled Gafford but Gafford missed the free throw giving Mizzou, 11 of 29 on threes, the chance to go up by one.
Jordan Barnett, 12 Mizzou points with a double-double game-high 10 rebounds, took the first three at :43 but it rimmed out and Macon rebounded for the sixth time.
Arkansas ran clock but had to give it up on Macon’s air ball with the shot-clock expiring at :15.
Guard Jordan Geist fired Mizzou’s last shot, his three rimming out with two seconds left.
“How fitting,” Anderson, the former Missouri coach until returning the last seven years to coach Arkansas where he had assisted Nolan Richardson for 17 years said. “Missouri and Arkansas playing and it goes down to the last shot. They had a couple of shots to go in and out for them and we were fortunate to come out on top.”
Arkansas’ defense played a part in its good fortune, Anderson said, noting Beard switched with Thomas to defend against Barnett and that Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford made it tougher for Geist’s last shot.
“We had enough defensive pressure on him (Geist) that he didn’t make the shot,” Anderson said. “And before that, Barnett had the same kind of shot and Anton did a good job of switching. They ran a great set where DT, Dustin Thomas, ended up switching, Robertson was coming off and then Anton ended up having Barnett and it went in and out and we came up with the rebound. I thought our defense, we did a really good job of just staying with them and we were fortunate. We had momentum in the first half, but that second half, that’s a testament to Cuonzo and his kids. They kept fighting.”
Missouri fought back by hitting 11 of 29 threes, and Arkansas helped Mizzou’s fight by hitting but 14 of 25 free throws to Mizzou’s 10 of 14.
“I look at our free throw percentage, 14 out of 25 and it could have been a different game,” Anderson said. “And I look at that and that they made 11 threes and I wonder, how did we win this game? I think it was our energy and defense.”
Martin said the Tigers paid for not matching Arkansas’ opening energy.
“ Credit Arkansas for winning the game,” Martin said. “They set the tone early in the first half and I think they got up 18 a couple of times and made good plays, played with energy and did a lot of really good things. We weren't as aggressive offensively and it showed. We came back and played the way we're capable of playing in the second half but came up short.”
Aside from Gafford’s 15 points and team high tying six boards, Arkansas got double-digit scoring from senior guard Barford, 10 of his 13 points in the second half but committing six turnovers, North Little Rock High grad Beard scoring 11 and freshman guard Darious Hall of Little Rock scoring 10 points, all in the first half, in his first Razorback start.
The normally high-scoring Macon only hit 2 of 7 for eight points but more than made up for it dealing eight assists, sharing Gafford’s team rebounding honors with six and “played some of his better defense down the stretch,” Anderson said.
Arkansas led by a first-half 18, 30-12 at 5:49 of the first half yet only only led 36-28 at intermission.
Robertson hit two threes during Mizzou’s 16-6 run in the half’s final 5:49.
Hall, starting and providing “energy,” Anderson said, and senior big man and Forrest City High grad Trey Thompson “orchestrating” off the bench, Anderson said, with two great passes for Hall buckets inside, fueled Arkansas’ early lead.
Arkansas muffed opportunities for a double digit lead at half hitting only 9 of 17 free throws while taking it to Mizzou inside.
The Tigers taking 18 first-half 3-pointers to Arkansas’ six, outscored Arkansas, 18-6 on first-half treys but paid a price for their perimeter emphasis by getting to the free throw line just three times and hitting two.