The Razorbacks finally won a close game this season, and continued their run of solid play in Bud Walton Arena with easily their biggest win of the year.
Vanderbilt came into Fayetteville unranked after losing five of their previous eight games, but all of their losses have come to good teams like Kansas, Purdue, Dayton, and Baylor. The Commodores were favored to beat Arkansas, but the Hogs are proving they intend on keeping their tradition of defending Bud Walton to the death.
Arkansas allowed Vandy to shoot 50% from three, and 50% overall, and still came away with the win despite shooting 40.8%. That's largely because the Hogs forced 26 turnovers and had a 29-9 advantage on points off turnovers. Arkansas also had an 11-6 advantage in offensive rebounds.
The Razorbacks needed big plays from several players. Anthlon Bell led all scorers with 26 points and once again hit a big three with two seconds left to give Arkansas a chance to win the game in overtime. Keaton Miles made a couple of big baskets going down the stretch. Moses Kingsley made a couple of baskets in overtime. Dusty Hannahs only made two field goals for the game despite scoring 13 points, but the second shot was in overtime.
Then it was Jabril Durham who iced the game at the end. He drew a foul with 20 seconds left and made both free throws to go up three, then stole the ball when Vanderbilt had a chance to tie the game. He was fouled after the steal and knocked down the last two free throws to end the game with the five point margin.
It was a close game throughout. Both teams led for much of the game. There were 15 lead changes and 13 ties. There were lots of big plays.
I know there's a segment of the fan base that seems reluctant to give Mike Anderson and the program much credit. I'm not saying I don't have questions at times, but they're going to continue to win some games this year, especially at home. They just won their biggest game of the season. Moses Kingsley went for 25-8 and is having an All-SEC type of year. I'm telling you, they're really not that bad. There are times when they play badly, but there are also times when they play really well.
A lot of people are questioning Mike Anderson's time out at the end of regulation. Vanderbilt was out of time outs so the theory goes they wouldn't have had to run a low-percentage possession trying to score in that situation. I get it. I also get calling the time out. Anderson used the time out to get Bell, Hannahs, and Jimmy Whitt out of the game and sub in Anton Beard and Manuale Watkins, both better defensive players.
Obviously, it didn't work because the Hogs got caught in a switch and Beard, the shortest man on the floor, got caught defending the deep pass to Damian Jones, which Jones caught and was able to get to the rim unimpeded. Anderson expressed his frustration after the game that the players allowed themselves to end up in the switch and that Beard was never supposed to be back there guarding Jones, but it is what happened. It's a low-percentage play with or without the time out. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said he'd have done the same thing in that situation and actually called time out the previous possession to set up his defense on the play that resulted in Bell's go-ahead three.
So I won't rip Anderson for it. I think it's a defensible strategy. And it all worked out in the end. The Razorbacks get another home game on Saturday against Mississippi State for the chance to go to 2-1 in conference play.