Arkansas 89, Vanderbilt 78

Rotnei Clarke has 36 points and Michael Sanchez a career-high 20 as Arkansas stuns No. 19 Vanderbilt 89-78 Saturday night before a shocked 14,316 fans at Memorial Gym.

NASHVILLE – About a half hour after Saturday's game ended, one of Vanderbilt's game day workers found himself near an Arkansas player.

"It's been a long time since someone came in here and tore us apart like that," the man said.

Indeed.

Rotnei Clarke scored 36 points – his career-high in an SEC game - and an inspired and healthy Michael Sanchez added a career-high 20 as the Razorbacks shocked the No. 19 Commodores 89-78 before a crowd of 14,316 fans.

It was the first road win of the season for Arkansas (14-6, 4-3) – who shot 57 percent for the game and 62 percent in the second half - and the first home loss for Vanderbilt (15-5, 3-3).

"I understand as a player, assistant coach and a head coach how well they play here," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "With all that being said, I am very, very proud of our guys. I thought they came in here with a toughness. Defensively we wanted to try and add some rebounding to it and tonight we were able to."

The Razorbacks shot a season-high 57.4 percent, won the board battle 30-22 and got the victory in spite of the Commodores going 25-of-26 from the free throw line.

It was a far different effort than the one Arkansas had last Saturday in a 75-43 embarrassment at Florida.

"When you go on the road there is a lot of adversity that comes your way," Pelphrey said. "It's a lot like life and how you respond to that stuff sometimes depends of how you win or lose.

"We obviously had a lot of good performances," Pelphrey continued.

Clarke was 12 of 16 from the field (6 of 8 from 3-point range) while Sanchez was 8 of 12 from the floor while playing 33 minutes.

"It's a team thing and none of that would have happened without my teammates anc Coach (Pelphrey) putting me in position to set some cuts up and come off screens," Clarke said. "That is what it is all about. It is a team game."

Sanchez, who has battled injuries most of the last two years, had started playing 8 games ago. His high point total in that time was 4 points.

He had 10 at halftime and showed why he was a highly recruited player offered by Kentucky coming out of Springdale Har-Ber.

"Mike has worked extremely hard and he has been practicing well," Pelphrey said. "…I felt like coming into the season with the way he was practicing before this game started that I thought Michael was going to have a chance to have an impact for us.

"At his position he is able to put the ball down on the floor and he is a tremendous passer," Pelphrey added. "I think he is getting closer and closer with the conditioning thing and getting back to where he was in the season. Hopefully some of these plays he was making are things he expects to do.

"We had hopes of that, we see it in practice and tonight I thought he was terrific," Pelphrey said. "Some of the finishes that he had were needed at the moment. There was a lot of contact. It's not like it was all done at the free throw line. He was finishing plays."

His 20 points were big because Marshawn Powell had just 6 points in 16 minutes and Delvon Johnson 3 points in just nine minutes of action.

"I think it was a team thing," Sanchez said. "Everybody was executing their roles on offense and spreading the court out, which helped me have opportunities to score. I was just taking the coaching that I had been getting all week.

"Coming back from injury, I have to give credit to all the coaching staff and trainers for helping out and my family for its support," Sanchez continued. "I have just been climbing uphill."

Pelphrey knows the game didn't go to form.

"If you had told me that Marshawn and Delvon would play just 25 minutes together and we would win, I don't know if you could have sold me that or not," Pelphrey said. "But tonight that is what happened."

The Razorbacks field goal percentage was the best against the Commodores in three years and left head coach Kevin Stallings befuddled.

"They got in to a real comfort zone against us and thought they could score every time they got the ball – primarily because they is what they did," Stallings said. "It was disappointing the lack of – well, I don't even know what I want to call it – the lack of something that we didn't put forth to try and come up a little bit to get those guys stopped. It was a really, really great game by both of them."

Asked when he knew his team was in trouble, Stallings said very early.

"Right after the tip-off," Stallings said.

The Razorbacks turned an 14-11 deficit into a 17-14 advantage with 12:06 left in the first half, never trailed again from that point and took a 43-36 lead into half.

Their largest was 16 points, accomplished twice at 65-49 on Glenn Bryant's dunk and ensuing free throw and 67-51 on a Sanchez spin move and bucket inside.

John Jenkins led Vanderbilt - who was never closer than 5 points in the second half - with 24 points while Festus Ezeli had 18, Jeffrey Taylor 13 and Rod Odom 12.

Vanderbilt had attended the funeral Friday of the mother of walk-on guard Chris Meriwether and were coming off big wins over St. Mary's and at Mississippi State.

The home loss was certainly different for the Commodores.

"It's definitely different," Jenkins said. "We're not used to losing at home at all. We're used to winning and shaking the crowd's hand afterward and that's not something we got to do tonight." Jenkins tried to chase Clarke around on defense.

"Now I know what it is like to guard me," Jenkins said.





Marshawn Powell, Rotnei Clarke and Michael Sanchez celebrate one of Sanchez' buckets.





Clarke puts in two of his 36 points as Jeffery Taylor defends and Glenn Byrant prepares for a possible rebound dunk


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