The Arkansas Razorbacks defeated the number one ranked Auburn Tigers inside Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday evening. Not a single person in attendance could stay off the floor as “All I Do Is Win”, “We Ready” and “Swag Surfin’” roared over the PA system.
Free throws were critical to Arkansas’ home victory shooting 26-32 from the charity stripe. The atmosphere the fans brought benefited the home team as Auburn shot less that 50-percent from the line, 8-17.
It was another solid defensive performance from the Hog defense, too. During their nine game winning streak, Arkansas has forced their opponents to shoot less that 40-percent from the field in all but one game. Auburn shot 30-80 from the field and 8-32 from three.
Turnovers were a huge difference in this game as the Hogs forced 19 of them against the Tigers. At points throughout the season the Razorbacks have struggled to score in transition off turnovers but really feasted off them tonight scoring 24 points off Auburn turnovers.
Arkansas was hammered on the boards in the first half. The Hogs led by three at halftime but were doubled up in the rebounding margin as Auburn led in the category 31-15. However, Eric Musselman made the adjustments necessary for that not to happen again for the remainder of the game as Arkansas was only out-rebounded by two, 29-27 in the second half and overtime.
THE SCARE: With 2:40 left in regulation, Auburn’s Wendell Green, Jr. finished his seven point outburst with a three to take a five point lead 64-59. That almost took the life out of Bud Walton Arena but it wasn’t over yet.
ARKANSAS’ AGGRESSION: Down five and the game on the line in front of a record crowd in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks needed someone to save the day. Senior transfer, Au’Diese Toney caught a pass on the wing and after a couple of dribbles he was fouled near the hoop and converted both free throws to bring the lead to three.
After an extended Auburn offensive possession with 2:03 to go, the Tigers missed two key shots and Toney came away with the rebound for Arkansas.
With 1:51 remaining, Stanley Umude drove to the basket and drew a foul on Auburn’s Walker Kessler. Umude would make one of two free throws to pull the Hogs within two, 64-62.
The Hogs continued to drive the ball to the hoop and drawing contact with 54 seconds remaining. This time, JD Notae hit both free throws to tie the game at 64.
The Tigers’ Green, Jr. would hit a finger roll to help retake the lead for Auburn with 42 seconds remaining.
The next Arkansas possession, Jaylin Williams took a pass at the elbow and drove down the lane to tie the game up with 23 seconds remaining in regulation to save the day.
Missed free throws by Auburn down the stretch were key to an Arkansas victory. During the second half and overtime the Tigers only converted on three of their ten free throws attempts.
OVERTIME: After a second chance made field goal, Little Rock’s Allen Flanigan put the Tigers ahead 68-66 with 3:52 left in the game. That would be the final time top ranked Auburn would find themselves ahead.
Arkansas shot 10-12 from the free throw line in the final two minutes of overtime which was the ultimate difference of the game. The Razorbacks defeated their first top ranked opponent ever in Fayetteville. Also, it is their first victory over a number one ranked team since they defeated Michael Jordan’s North Carolina during the 1983-1984 season in a game that was played in Pine Bluff, Ark.
The Razorbacks shot 23-67 from the field this evening and were led by JD Notae’s 28 points. Toney (14 points and 10 rebounds) and Williams (13 points and 11 rebounds) both finished with double-doubles for Arkansas.
Devo Davis was the only other Razorback to finish in double figures scoring on the night. He scored 10 points, shot 50-percent from the field and forced five steals.
Auburn’s superstar Jabari Smith had a solid night leading his team in scoring with 20 pints and recorded nine rebounds. Walker Kessler was dominant inside the paint scoring 16 points, 19 rebounds and 7 blocks before fouling out during the extra period. Green Jr. finished with 19 points but turned the ball over a team high seven times.
During the postgame press conference, Musselman was as excited as anyone and credited the crowd for the victory.
“There won’t be a better crowd than that in the next 50 years,’’ Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “Nobody that was here did not have fun unless maybe an Auburn fan.’’
From start to finish, the performance put on by the Razorback fans was reminiscent of days gone by in Bud Walton and Barnhill history. Tonight, they may have recaptured the energy behind a soldout, record crowd.
Fans were standing, chanting, yelling and heckling the whole 45 minutes of play time. They were also a factor during timeouts as Bruce Pearl likely needed a megaphone if he wanted to communicate with his team.
Hog fans need to keep up that same energy each night as the Razorback basketball team looks to finish strong down the stretch. Home games against Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and LSU are still coming and this team needs you.
Arkansas won their ninth straight game on Tuesday to improve their record to 19-5 overall and 8-3 in the SEC. The Razorbacks will return to the hardwood against Alabama on the road this Saturday at high noon.
Jacob Davis is the managing editor for Arkansas Fight. You can follow him all Twitter @jacobscottdavis.