This was the closest Arkansas has gotten to clicking on all cylinders in SEC play. They could have gotten disrupted by an officiating crew that 53 fouls, allowing Auburn to shoot 40 free throws, but they did not. The Razorbacks' scorers were scoring - shooting 53.8% from the field - and defenders were defending - holding Auburn to 42.6% shooting, forcing 17 turnovers, and blocking 7 shots.
Nobody really had a bad game. Michael Qualls bounced back from his little slump over the last few weeks and scored 19 points. Anthlon Bell continued his improved shooting from the Mississippi State game with 16 points, 4-7 from three point land. Ky Madden had 12 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 0 turnovers. Alandise Harris had 10 points. And Bobby Portis - no, he didn't have a double-double this time - had 22 points and 8 rebounds.
Arkansas led for the entire final 38 minutes of the game. There was not huge run to break the game open. The Hogs just kept chipping away. They did manage a 12-3 run in the middle of the first half and a 10-2 run in the 2nd and led by as many as 21, but neither really felt like big runs because the refs kept calling fouls on both sides.
We have to talk about the officiating in college basketball for a moment. It's absurd. Arkansas has played a game this season in which they only took 7 free throws, and by contrast, in this game there were 53 fouls called (and it would have been much more if the game was close and the teams were still at optimal defensive intensity the last several minutes). Discrepancies of this magnitude mean the players are playing games with different rules. The Razorbacks scored 101 points in this game, and many people found it hard to watch. It's ridiculous.
Arkansas played 11 players in the first half, and eight of them had at least two fouls by halftime. It got so bad that Mike Anderson had to play Keaton Miles for five minutes in the first half by necessity. Miles had a nice dunk, but still. They also called four technical fouls, fouled out two Hogs, and four players ended with 4 fouls. The stripes earned their check tonight.
But regardless, the Razorbacks were able to overcome it and won decisively. Auburn doesn't have a good RPI, but it is a road win, and that alone is good for Arkansas' resume. Winning this game at home wouldn't have done much of anything for the Hogs but teams get a little extra credit for winning on the road, even if it's not against a good team. The win sets up Arkansas for a game at Ole Miss on Saturday that really is just a gravy game for the Hogs in terms of their NCAA resume. They won't lose much ground if they lose, but winning could get them a higher seed.
The Ole Miss game definitely matters in terms of SEC standings. Since the Rebels won in Fayetteville, they'll own a tiebreaker over Arkansas if they win in the Tad Pad. The Razorbacks came into the week tied with Ole Miss and A&M for 2nd in the league, and if Ole Miss wins on Thursday at Florida to keep pace with the Hogs, a second win over Arkansas effectively puts them two games over Arkansas because of the tiebreaker.
But if Arkansas continues to shoot over 50% from the field on the road, they'll win quite a few of these games.