Missouri led 83-75 with 3:38 to go. It was the cap of a 12-4 run and it seemed all was over. I started thinking about a routine postgame story about Arkansas fading away down the stretch and losing another road game.
And then, you wouldn't believe it. The Razorbacks scored 10 straight points in just 2:21. Six of the points were from the free throw line, and the last points were on a fantastic layup by Mardracus Wade. All of a sudden, the Hogs led by two points with 1:17 to play.
Could it be? Is Arkansas going to win back-to-back road games? Are the Razorbacks going to pull off a big comeback in the last few minutes of a game? Are the Hogs going back to the NCAA bubble conversation after a top-50 road win and a pair of home games on deck? Are anthracite uniforms really a magic road game cure?
After Jordan Clarkson missed one of two free throws to give Arkansas the ball and the lead with one minute left, well, things collapsed.
The play Arkansas ran out of the time out was atrocious. The play-by-play just reads turnover by Rashad Madden, but the play looked doomed from the start. Arkansas nearly lost the ball before Madden ever stepped on the sideline. Missouri got the ball back and Jabari Brown drove into the lane and hit a running, spinning jumper over Madden and Coty Clarke.
Madden drove to the basket in the final seconds but couldn't hit the final shot. It was over. Arkansas loses by one point.
The Razorbacks played well enough to win. They shot 42.6% from the field for 85 points, which is a lot. They stayed even with Missouri on offensive rebounds after getting killed on that stat in the game in Fayetteville two weeks ago. Arkansas took six more shots than Missouri on account of the Hogs' usual turnover advantage.
But it wasn't enough of an advantage to overcome Missouri's incredible free throw shooting.
There were 50 fouls called in the game, 25 on each team. The Tigers shot 38 free throws and made 34. Arkansas shot 37 and made 29. 78.4% is normally a pretty solid team free throw percentage, but Missouri was incredible. Going back to the first game, the Tigers made 39 consecutive free throws against Arkansas.
It hurts, and fans can gripe about the team's weaknesses, and Lord knows they have them, but this game is really as simple as that free throw number.
Fourteen of Brown's 25 points came from the stripe. He was just 5-15 from the field. Jordan Clarkson is the only player Arkansas couldn't really stop on the floor. Clarkson was 8-15 for 27 points (and 11 free throws). Earnest Ross was 4-13 for 15 points.
It was hard for either team to get into a rhythm because of all the whistles. A foul was called on every third play. Literally. There were 151 total possessions and 50 total fouls. Some games are just like that. We've seen games this year without much referee influence, and a couple of games like this where they decide the flow of the game. That's how it goes.
In the end, it's just another blown opportunity for Arkansas. The Hogs have had five games this season come down to plays at the last second, and are now 2-3 in those games. And that doesn't take into account playing tough against Tennessee or the first Missouri game. This team has had chances, they've just only converted them against Kentucky and Vanderbilt. They're running out of opportunities to change that narrative.
The Razorbacks get a pair of games at home before heading back out on the road in Starkville, a stretch the team really needs to go 3-0 in to have a chance at the postseason.
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