It probably wasn't very pretty and was more exciting than we would have preferred, but we came out with an 82-78 win over the Hogs in overtime. As usual, Devan Downey was the hero, scoring 25 points and sinking some key free throws late in the extra period. Arkansas guard Jason Henry led all scorers with 27. Credit to the Hogs for giving us all we could handle; this hasn't been their year and they don't have much to play for anymore, but they came to win and played well. In the end, though, we came out with the all-necessary win.
This game wasn't televised, so my ability to provide analysis is a little limited. However, from the box score you can see that Arkansas was able to stay in this game by beating us on the boards and forcing some turnovers. Because of their success in these two areas, the Hogs had 68 field goal attempts to our 61 and shot for a higher percentage than we did from the field. When you think about it that way, it's clear that it was really a small miracle that we won this game. Surprisingly, free throws were key for us; we made 20-26 for 77%, while the Razorbacks made 9-16 for 56%. Who would have thought that we would outperform a team from the line by such a striking margin? Certainly makes you think that if this game had been in Fayetteville, we would have lost. We probably got a few calls here and there and Arkansas appears to have wilted at the line in front of the packed house at the CLA. A win is a win, though, and we need to be happy we got it and come out playing better in the future. Limiting turnovers and playing better on the boards needs to be a priority going forward; I'm especially surprised that we were manhandled like that on the boards, considering that Arkansas plays such a small lineup. We apparently had big men in early foul trouble, which may account for part of the problem. Still, Austin Steed only played four minutes off the bench; if rebounding is becoming a problem when Sam Muldrow and Mike Holmes have to go to the bench, why isn't Steed getting more minutes? I know he's not a shooting threat like Evka Baniulis or Brandis Raley-Ross, but he's also a more imposing defender in the middle and he's not the turnover machine that Baniulis is. I know Baniulis had a big game last night, but it seems to me that if a team like Arkansas is plowing us on the boards and keeping themselves in the game that way, maybe we should try another lineup. Not really a criticism of Coach Horn, per se, but something to think about.
Moving forward, we're still in solid shape for the NCAAs. To get in, I think we need to at least split down the stretch and maybe go 3-1, but with our two toughest remaining games at home and our two road games against relatively weak teams, there's good reason to believe that we can win three and maybe even win out. We'll have to play better than we did last night, but hopefully that will happen. The upcoming midweek game with Kentucky will be obviously be key. A win against the surging Cats, who did themselves a huge favor by plastering Tennessee yesterday, will bolster our resume and make it very likely that we will at least finish third in the Eastern Division. Moreover, if we win, we will have swept Kentucky for only the second time since we joined the SEC. In addition to being nice as a point of pride, that will make it very hard for the NCAAs to pick Kentucky over us if they come the point of having to make that decision.
I'd also like to congratulate the baseball team, which opened their season by pounding Duquesne yesterday. They're currently winning in the second game of the series as we speak. I don't follow baseball closely and leave the reporting on it to cocknfire, but I like to see us win as much as the next guy. Good stuff.