Last year, with the help of two thrilling victories over Vanderbilt, the Razorbacks constructed a late-season, five-game winning streak that propelled them (barely) into the NCAA Tournament. If Arkansas makes it back this year, a heart-stopping March conquest of the Commodores would once again be a major reason why.
Just when we were ready to emotionally withdraw from the season, the Hogs pulled off their most impressive victory of the year and pumped new blood into their NCAA hopes. Some quick thoughts:
* Welcome Back, Patrick Beverley. Well, to be specific: Welcome back, Patrick Beverley's jumper. After playing several weeks with his offensive game in deep freeze, No. 21 stirred visions of his magnificent freshman season by burying five of seven shots from behind the three-point line to finish the game with 17 points. We love the gaudy rebounding stats as much as anyone, but we'd much rather see Patrick making shots instead of hauling in missed ones.
* Who Was That Team on the Free Throw Line? The Hogs provided a wonderfully refreshing change of pace on Saturday by making 72 percent of their free throws. Sonny Weems was particularly clutch, making seven of eight shots from the charity stripe and knocking down all six of his free throws in the game's last 20 seconds. Here's hoping such performance continues, but, frankly, we aren't holding our breath.
* Kudos, Gary Ervin. The senior point guard can be exasperating to watch, but he put on a fine display Saturday, totaling 13 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds (including a huge one in the game's waning seconds) and only one turnover. We've never doubted his effort, so it's great to see him come through in such an important game.
* Preach On, Brother Pelphrey: We loved this post-game quote from the Boss Hog, courtesy of Nate Allen of the Northwest Arkansas Times: "I don't know how to say this. I'm happy that we won but I'm not happy with this team. Tonight you saw courage, toughness. I want to see that when we pack up to go on the road. Bud Walton is electric, but (on the road ) we don't need mommy cutting corners off our bread and cutting our chicken nuggets for us. We need to be men and play that way."
On to Oxford.