FAYETTEVILLE - After Daniel Gafford’s tip-in eked Arkansas to it last lead with 16 seconds left, the Razorbacks survived three Oklahoma State misses to edge the Cowboys, 66-65 in Saturday’s SEC vs. Big 12 Challenge game before a packed 18,057 house at Walton Arena.
OSU’s Jeffrey Carroll missed a jumper with seven seconds left, and OSU big man Mitchell Solomon missed a follow that Arkansas senior receive big man and Forrest City High grad Trey Thompson rebounded and was immediately fouled.
Thompson missed the front end of his one and one with two seconds left, but Lindy Waters’ nearly full-court try for a trey fell away as the Razorbacks advanced to 15-6 and ended a five-game losing streak to the Cowboys since the 1971 Razorbacks last beat the Cowboys in Barnhill Fieldhouse.
OSU falls to 13-8 in large part because it mustered but second-half field goals against Arkansas, the last with 7:34 remaining after blistering the nets while leading the first half, 40-32.
“ I thought our defense was totally different in the second half,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought we really ratcheted it up and made fatigue a factor going down the stretch. They shot 50 percent in the first half but in the second half they shot 22 percent. So that tells me we came out with the right mindset. Our offense wasn’t as efficient as it aways has been but our defense was really good.”
OSU had fewer shots to break its slump because the Razorbacks forced nine second-half OSU turnovers, as many as Arkansas committed the entire game. It enabled Arkansas to outscore the Cowboys 20-9 on miscues and set up Arkansas offensively to prevail even with just one cog of its scoring machine excelling.
Senior guard Daryl Macon scored 22 of Arkansas’ 66 points including 13 in the first half that Arkansas never led.
With senior mainstay scoring guard Jaylen Barford, 2 for 11, scoreless after hitting two first-half threes, the Razorbacks relied on Macon, their lone double-figures scorer Saturday, and some big plays by Thompson,, seven points, six rebounds, two shot blocks and two steals, Gafford, despite foul trouble limiting the 6-11 El Dorado freshman to just 14 minutes, senior guard Anton Beard, only 2 for 11 shooting but with six assists vs. zero turnovers, senior forward Dustin Thomas, nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds, freshman reserve guard C.J. Jones’ two threes and Arlando Cook’s first go-ahead tip-in “guys made plays,” Anderson said, to avenge last season’s embarrassing 99-71 SEC/Big 12 Challenge loss to the Cowboys in Stillwater.
Waters led OSU Saturday with 17 points while Solomon and Brandon Averette scored 10 OSU points each.
Oklahoma State opened the game with a surge and Arkansas in a trance as the Cowboys led, 9-0.
Then role reversal. A Barford three from the corner and a Beard steal and layup ignited an 8-0 Razorbacks run.
The 9-8 deficit would prove as close as Arkansas could come during OSU’s 40-32 first half.
The Cowboys mounted an 11-0 run immediately after Arkansas closed to one.
The Razorbacks rallied to cut it 38-35 on Darious Hall’s out of nowhere shot block on one end leading to Macon’s layup on the other.
However the Razorbacks lost the last of the half’s momentum with Thompson missing inside on a feed from Macon with seven seconds, and OSU then scoring on Brandon Averette’s buzzer-beating layup.
Arkansas didn’t help itself at the first-half free throw line. The Hogs made but 1 of 4, including Barford missing a front end of a one and one with the Cowboys scoring on the other end, while OSU made 4 of 6 and hit 15 of 30 from the field including six treys.
Macon, 3 of 5 and Barford, 2 of 3, accounted for Arkansas hitting 5 of 10 first-half treys.
Arkansas didn’t take its first lead until a 3-pointer by C.J Jones put the Hogs up until Cook’s tip-in had them up, 50-49 with 10:49 left in the game.
Neither team led by more than two thereafter among the 13 lead changes before Gafford tipped in Beard’s shot with 16 seconds for the winning edge.
“ Daniel, what can I say about him? Anderson said. “He sat there all those minutes, since he got that fourth foul but thank God I had him in there at the end because he’s a size guy that had energy and he tipped the ball in for the game-winning shot. So this is a team where each and every night it’s going to be somebody different that steps up.”
Macon had taken a rare backwards step scoreless at Stillwater last season but said that didn’t affect him stepping up Saturday.
“Naw, I wasn't even thinking about last year,” Macon said. “I just went out there and played ball. When you're playing this game, things happen. Sometimes you're not going to get your average, sometimes you are. You've just got to keep pushing.”
And playing defense, Beard and Macon echoed in their postgame interview.
“The last couple of games have been won off the last play,” Beard said. “We’re getting big stops. So we've just got to keep that going.”