To escape the most likely fate of having to play D-II host Chaminade in the 7th place game, today’s game was a must win for both Minnesota and Arkansas. The Razorbacks played like they knew that in the second half.
After averaging 15.8 points per game coming off the bench this season, Alandise Harris was put into the starting lineup, and he helped the Hogs to a quick start, as the team started the game shooting 5-8 from the field.
The start of the game was almost the exact opposite of the Razorbacks’ loss yesterday to California. Minnesota (5-2) Head Coach Richard Pitino couldn’t wait until the first media timeout before he had to call a timeout of his own after Arkansas jumped out to an 8-3 lead. It was good to see Arkansas bounce back after their performance yesterday.
Arkansas (4-1) lost the lead during a 13-2 Minnesota run at the nine minute mark of the first half. It was as if the Hogs had remembered how they played the day before, and went back to their old ways. The Golden Gophers were able to get a 20-19 lead at the eight-minute media timeout. I think I heard Hog fans say in unison, "here we go again."
Rashad Madden hit an open three with just over two minutes left to give Arkansas the lead again at 32-31. The three came deep into the shot clock and after the offense used good ball movement to get Madden open.
The last minute of the half looked more like a pick-up game at the HPER than it did a college basketball game. Minnesota was able to take advantage of a couple of turnovers by Arkansas to extend their lead to 40-35 at the break.
The second half started almost identical to the first half. Arkansas started on a 10-0 run to get a 45-40 lead and Pitino couldn’t wait for the first media timeout before call one of his own to regroup. Arkansas never trailed again in the game. (I can't believe I just wrote that about a game outside of Bud Walton Arena)
It didn’t necessarily feel like the "Fastest 40" the whole game, but there was great 90 second stretch between the 15:00-13:30 mark where the Hogs extended their lead to 55-46 capped off by an explosive ally-op dunk by Michael Qualls. This was the best 90 second stretch of the season for Arkansas.
The Razorbacks continued to play as if there was a slobberin’ hog at center court. Moses Kingsley finished an old-fashioned three point play and then Qualls with his third dunk of the contest to extend the Hogs lead to 60-48 at the 12 and under media timeout.
A Kikko Haydar three from the corner and a Kingsley fast-break dunk gave the Hogs their biggest lead to that point at 65-50. This was the point where it really felt like Arkansas was running Minnesota out of the Lahaina Civic Center, just like Nolan Richardson used to run Rick Pitino out of Barnhill and Bud Walton.
Even when Minnesota made a mini run of their own to cut the lead back to 10, Arkansas persevered. When the Hogs needed a bucket, someone found a way to get one. Whether it was Kingsley, who had his best game as a Razorback with seven points and four rebounds in only 10 minutes of play, or Madden who went a perfect 3-3 from behind the arc, the Hogs found a way to get the win. Arkansas had five players in double figures. Harris led the way with 15, followed by Portis with 12, Madden with 11 and both Qualls and Gulley with 10. Arkansas had 10 players score in the game. The Hogs were +6 in the rebounding column after being -16 in their loss to California.
It doesn’t matter if it’s called the "Fastest 40" or "40 Minutes of Hell"; it felt like Hawgball was back. Sure, Arkansas won some big games last year, but those were in the friendly confines of Bud Walton Arena. In his 69th game as the head coach of the Razorbacks, Mike Anderson finally got a quality win outside the state of Arkansas.
Arkansas awaits the winner of Chaminade/Gonzaga and will play tomorrow at 4pm CT on ESPN2.