Free throws lift Missouri past Arkansas 75-71
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Earnest Ross hadn’t won at Arkansas in three attempts, dating back to his first two seasons at Auburn.
The Missouri senior picked exactly the right moment to help end his woes in the state on Tuesday night, also putting an end to the Tigers’ Bud Walton Arena jinx in the process.
Ross’ late 3-pointer helped propel Missouri (16-4, 4-3) to a 75-71 win over the Razorbacks – providing a much-needed boost to the Tigers’ NCAA tournament hopes.
It also helped end an 0-for-6 stretch for Missouri in Bud Walton, dating back to the arena’s inaugural 1993-94 season when the two schools were non-conference rivals. Arkansas crushed the Tigers 120-68 on the way to a national championship that first season in its new home – and it hadn’t lost to Missouri in the building until Tuesday.
”Obviously, it was a great win for us,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. ”I thought we showed toughness to come in this building, which is one of the all-time greatest buildings in the country.”
Ross and Jabari Brown led Missouri with 24 points each, and both were 8 of 8 from the free-throw line – leading the way for a perfect 16 of 16 effort from the foul line in the second half for the Tigers.
The free throws were all Missouri needed to seal the win after Ross’ 3-pointer that snapped a 64-64 tie. The shot came after an offensive rebound by the Tigers, who out-rebounded Arkansas (13-7, 2-5) 42-26, and it was Jordan Clarkson who drove into the lane before kicking it out to Ross at the top of the key.
The senior, who lost twice in Fayetteville before transferring from Auburn to the Tigers – with whom he also lost at Arkansas last season – calmly stroked the shot to put Missouri up 67-64 with 59.4 seconds remaining.
Clarkson added 11 points for the Tigers, whose rebounding advantage was led by 12 rebounds from Johnathan Williams.
”It feels good just knowing what we practiced all week, and to come out and execute what we did on the practice court in an actual game,” Ross said. ”I think it’s a great reward, and I’m happy we got the win tonight.”
Ky Madden led the Razorbacks, who have now lost twice at home in conference play, with 20 points.
Arkansas was undefeated at home in the SEC last season, but it’s now lost two of its last four in Bud Walton Arena – including an overtime loss to Florida on Jan. 14. The Razorbacks had won 25 of their last 26 games in Bud Walton Arena.
”It hurts bad,” Madden said. ”Just not the loss at home, just the loss in conference, period. All losses hurt, but we’ve just got to continue to fight and get better. That’s all we can hope for.”
Michael Qualls and Bobby Portis each added 16 points for the Razorbacks, whose postseason appears to be slipping away in coach Mike Anderson’s third season.
Arkansas has won just once on the road in SEC play in each of the last two seasons under Anderson, and it now faces a stretch of three of four games on the road – beginning at LSU on Saturday.
”It’s kind of unchartered territory for us,” Anderson said. ”We had done a good job of defending the home court … I thought they brought more energy, and in the end, they wanted it a little bit more than we did.”
After struggling to shoot the ball inside for much of the first half, Arkansas came alive early in the second.
It did so behind the resurgence of Qualls – the high-flying sophomore who was the team’s leading scorer until a shooting slump that began with the start of SEC play. Qualls entered Tuesday 11 of 56 (19.6 percent) in six conference games, but he was 3 of 3 on 3-pointers in the first half.
Qualls’ fourth 3-pointer of the game put the Razorbacks up 61-60, but Brown answered with back-to-back baskets to put Missouri up 64-61.
Madden then tied the game at 64-64 with a three-point play for Arkansas, but Ross had the answer on the other end.
”I expect that from (Ross),” Brown said. ”I know what kind of player he is … When I (saw) him hit that shot, you know, I wasn’t surprised. That’s what he does.”
Brown, the SEC’s leading scorer at 19.5 points per game, started slowly – scoring just five points on 1-of-3 shooting in the first half.
However, the junior came alive in the second – hitting three early 3-pointers as Missouri used an 11-0 run to surge ahead 56-46. Brown, who has scored at least 22 points in each of his last five games, connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to cap the Tigers’ run.