FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas fouled up the Ole Miss Rebels’ comeback bid by sinking 13 of 15 free throws in the final 3:15 of the Razorbacks’ 97-93 SEC victory before an 18,030 full house Saturday afternoon at Walton Arena.
Given that the Razorbacks had made just half as many free throws as attempted their last two games and making just 61 percent of their free throws the previous six SEC games, their free throw success defied percentages.
It did not surprise Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy knowing Arkansas’ “sense of urgency,” he said,as a now 13-6, 3-4 SEC team set Tuesday at Georgia to play the first of three consecutive SEC road games interrupted by next Saturday’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge nonconference game against Oklahoma State at Walton.
“What were they coming in for the season, 57 or 58 percent on free throws? Kennedy said. “Something crazy though, right? Yeah and here they go 80 percent. That's a credit to them. That's kids just locked in and making shots. They wanted to win and they proved that.”
Ole Miss, now 10-9, 3-4 and Wednesday hosting Alabama, proved it wanted to win now rallying from down 50-34 with 1:58 in the first half to pull within three points, 92-89, with 26 seconds left on Deandre Burnett’s three, and two points, 95-93 on Terrence Davis’ trey with 10 seconds left.
After both Ole Miss treys Arkansas kept the ball in Daryl Macon’s hands to be fouled. Playing off the bench Macon sank all four of this final four freebies to be 11 of 12 from the line while scoring 20 posits ad rising a game-high six assists.
Freshman guard Darious Hall, 8 of 8, while scoring 11, and freshman center Daniel Gafford, 3 of 4 while scoring 15 with nine rebounds, three shot-blocks and three steals, also were big on the free throw line.
“ I was proud of our guys effort on the free throw line today,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “That's the difference in the game. You look at the field goals, the same (29). The three-pointers (both 11), we made more in the first half, they made more in the second half, especially going down the stretch there. Rebounding (Ole Miss, 30 and Arkansas, 29) was even. But I thought the difference was, we went 28 out of 35 from the line. That's how you win games.”
Especially keeping in Macon’s hands knowing Ole Miss had to foul.
“Obviously you go with the percentage,” Anderson said of Macon being Arkansas’ best free throw shooter. “I thought he did a good job of getting to the ball.”
And an assertive job of telling everyone to get him the ball.
“After I threw it to JB (Jaylen Barford) one time,” El Dorado native Gafford said, “He told me, ‘Dan, I am coming to get the ball!’ And I said ‘All right.’ So every time I saw him, I just gave him the ball. There was one time that I threw it in so quick that I don’t think they even wanted to foul him because it was fast.”
Barford missed three of his seven free throw attempts but didn’t miss much else, shooting 8 of 11 from the including 3 of 4 treys to lead Arkansas with 23 points.
One of Barford’s three steals, actually initiated by Gafford, Barford said, led to his huge layup after Ole Miss had pulled to within four with the ball at 4:39.
“I told him they were going to give him my steal,” Gafford said, laughing as he shared the postgame media interview with Barford
Barford laughed too.
“Dan poked the ball in my little hands and right away I went behind my back and made the layup,” Barford said. “Thanks to Dan, though. It’ a credit to Dan.”
There was plenty of credit to share, Anderson said on a day that Arkansas made 18 assist. Freshman guard Hall, starting with Macon brought off the bench,and sophomore reserve guard C.J. Joes, 3 of 5 treys, each scored 11 points.
Senior starting guard Anton Beard and senior big man alternate Trey Thompson, both unable to play the second half of Wednesday night’s loss at Florida because of ankle and hamstring injuries, logged 30 and 12 minutes Saturday. Beard made five assists, sank 2 of 2 free throws and made one of his two field goals with the shot-clock expiring while Thompson grabbed four rebounds and sank his only shot.
“There's no way I thought Trey would come out and give us the 12 minutes he gave us,” Anderson said. “It was like a game-time decision before he went out there.
I didn't even think Anton Beard would have a chance. But that tells you a lot about those guys, being here for four years. They felt obligated to their team to try to get as well as they could.”
Anderson lauded Kennedy and his Rebels for never buckling when they trailed by 16 before the eventual 50-38 intermission and then roaring back with some great free throw shooting, 24 of 29, and 3-point shooting of their own.
Ole Miss guard Terrence Davis’ 30 points led all scorers and included 5 of 8 treys. Ole Miss guard Breein Tyree, 3 of 6 treys, scored 16 while Bruce Stevens and Deandre Burnett scored 15 each for Ole Miss.
Arkansas senior forward Dustin Thomas, normally a starter, did not play.
“Just coach's decision,” Anderson said “I just played some other guys.”
Sophomore Adrio Bailey started in Thomas’ place with a bucket an a steal and two assists and senior alternate forward Arlando Cook provide six points, three rebounds and an assist.