Arkansas 82, No. 25 Vanderbilt 74
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)
Hunter Mickelson's first career 3-pointer ignited Arkansas. The freshman's spinning second-half dunk was the exclamation point.
All in all, the Razorbacks (16-6, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) found a way to remain undefeated in Bud Walton Arena this season with an 82-74 victory over No. 25 Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.
Rickey Scott had 18 points as Arkansas equaled its best start to open a season in Fayetteville since the 1993-94 national championship team had the same home mark for the entire season. Only that team and the 1997-98 team have gone undefeated at home since the arena opened in 1993.
''I think it's been like that, you've got to protect the home (court),'' Scott said. ''Every team is like that; you're going to protect the house.
''It's just natural to us.''
The Commodores (16-6, 5-2), who had won 11 of 12 entering the game, led 40-37 in the second half before the 6-foot-10 Mickelson stepped back and made the first 3-pointer of his career to tie the game. Mickelson was 0 of 2 on 3-point attempts before that, but the make started a stretch where Arkansas hit six of seven field goals from behind the arc.
That led to a 59-46 lead, and Vanderbilt was unable to get closer than seven points after that.
Five players finished in double figures for the Razorbacks, while Mickelson added nine points in 11 minutes before fouling out. That included consecutive baskets in the second half to put Arkansas up 71-57, the first of which was a two-handed dunk after a spin move past Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli.
''We should have come out the gate firing on all cylinders, but sometimes that doesn't happen,'' Mickelson said. ''Like I said, we're all versatile and anybody can start it at any time. We've been doing that throughout the whole year, so (hopefully) we can keep it up.''
The Commodores led 34-32 at halftime behind 10 first-half points from Ezeli, who scored 21 points in his last game, against Middle Tennessee. He scored nine straight points at one point to start an 11-0 run that put Vanderbilt up 29-25.
The Commodores shot 52 percent (13 of 25) in the half and kept Arkansas' big men in foul trouble, but they were still outrebounded 19-15 in the half and 36-29 for the game.
''I thought the difference in the game was their team speed,'' Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. ''I thought that they were faster and quicker than we were, and they utilized that to their advantage - especially on the offensive end.''
Julysses Nobles added 17 points for the Razorbacks, who entered the game with home wins over two ranked teams this season: then-No. 15 Mississippi State and then-No. 20 Michigan. They used big first-half runs in both of those wins, but didn't follow that script in falling behind 40-37 early in the second half.
This time, Arkansas pulled away with its 3-point barrage - equaling its SEC-best with nine 3s. Nobles finished with three of the 3s, while Scott and Mardracus Wade each hit two during the 22-6 stretch that put the Razorbacks up 59-46.
BJ Young also hit a 3-pointer during the run and finished with 12 points. Wade and Ky Madden added 10 points apiece as Arkansas did its best to start making a legitimate case for a return to the NCAA tournament after missing it the last three seasons.
''I thought this team grew up tonight,'' Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ''I thought we grew up in a lot of areas, just from the standpoint of how hard you've got to play. Not only how hard you've got to play, but playing together.''