This game was basically the exact opposite of the first Arkansas/Georgia game in January. That was a slopply, sludgy affair that went to overtime after both teams scored just 52 points in regulation. Arkansas scored over 40 points in each half today en route to an 87-75 victory, the Hogs' 20th of the season.
Fans packed Bud Walton with excitement coming off the triumph against Kentucky on Thursday. This game against Georgia was sold out before that game even started, but that victory just turned everything up to 11 today. When Coty Clarke opened the game with a three from the corner the croud exploded, the first such eruption in a game with more than its fair share of highlights.
Georgia did their best to take the crowd out of the game early. They shot at about an 80% clip in the first 15 minutes, led by four three-pointers in that span from Kenny Gaines (Gaines finished with a game-high 25 points despite missing part of the second half after bumping knees with a Razorback). The Bulldogs actually led by seven with about five minutes to play before halftime, but that's when Arkansas went full HAWG and you don't want to play Arkansas when they go full HAWG.
The Razorbacks closed the half on a 16-2 run that featured not one, but two and-1 alley-oops, the first a lob from Clarke to Michael Qualls, and the second from Qualls to Clarke. Qualls was able to slam his down and Clarke was able to convert a difficult layup before falling out of bounds. Both were SportsCenter worthy. Perhaps the most remarkable part of the run was the reappearance of Rickey Scott, who hadn't played since the LSU game two weeks ago, hit a big three to give Arkansas the lead at 39-37, and the Razorbacks never lost it.
Arkansas, as they are wont to do, did allow Georgia to make things interesting in the second half. The Bulldogs cut the lead to just five points with 4:43 to play, but Mardracus Wade and Rashad Madden halted the Hogs' field goal drought (tonight's lasted 5:58), pushing the lead back to 10 and the Bulldogs never seriously threatened down the stretch. If there was any doubt, Alandise Harris ended it with an absolutely vicious one-handed alley-oop slam that left him pounding his chest when he returned to the floor. It may have been more spectacular than Qualls' and Clarke's plays from the first half.
Clarke set his career high with 23 points and Qualls nearly set his with 20 points (21 is his high). The Hogs also got eight points each from Madden and Harris. Wade and Fred Gulley pitched in six apiece.
One stat you might have thought would be a clear signal Arkansas would lose is that Bobby Portis only scored two points. That means in the last 65 minutes of game time, Portis only has four points. Yet somehow, the Hogs continue to thrive. Portis did lead the team in rebounds with eight to go along with three assists and a two blocks, so he was certainly still productive.
So now the Razorbacks have 20 wins, clinched at least a .500 SEC record (although finishing 9-9 would certainly be a disappointment at this point) and continue to have all the momentum in the world heading into the last week of the regular season. It's all on the table for this team. Arkansas plays what we all hope will be the last game of the year in Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday night against Ole Miss. Should be a fun Senior Night.
Important note: If Arkansas and Georgia end up with the same SEC record, Arkansas will own a tiebreaker over Georgia in SEC Tournament seeding assuming Kentucky gets the #2 seed. Of course, there's also chance at a 3-way tie or more, and we'll just wait to prognosticate how that will turn out.
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