Auburn, Ala. – As far as the Razorbacks are concerned, it was a beautiful way to win an ugly game.
Delvon Johnson's dunk with six seconds left came off a slick feed from Julysess Nobles and lifted Arkansas over Auburn 57-55 Saturday afternoon before 7,206 fans at newly-built Auburn Arena.
"I came wide open and the only thing I thought of was dunk," Johnson said. "…This was my first game-winning shot so I had to do it."
The win was the fourth in five games overall and the second on the road this season for the Razorbacks (18-10, 7-7), but wasn't secured until Josh Wallace's 3-pointer bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
"We're very happy and I am very proud of those guys," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "We lost a lot of plays in the second half, but we didn't let it effect us on the last one, actually the last two, because there were still three or four seconds left when we scored."
Rotnei Clarke had 17 points and Marcus Britt 10 points and 7 rebounds for Arkansas, who came into the game off a home win over No. 22 Kentucky.
"Coach told us it was going to be a game won at the end because at home they come back and always fight," Johnson said.
The Razorbacks can wrap up second-place in the SEC Western with a home win over Mississippi State Wednesday night combined with an Ole Miss loss at Auburn.
The Western Division runner-up gets a bye into the second round of the SEC Tournament.
"To crawl back now and be 7-7 in league play, 18 wins, I'm proud of these guys and that's something good," Pelphrey said. "It's going to be a good plane ride home to Fayetteville."
Michael Sanchez added 7 points, including a 3-point play with 3:49 remaining that put the Razorbacks up 55-48.
But those were the visitors' last points until Johnson's dunk, which was needed because Auburn (9-19, 2-12) rallied to tie it 55-55 on Kenny Gabriel's lay-up with 28 seconds left.
Arkansas called timeout with 14.8 seconds left that resulted in Nobles finding Johnson (6 points, 7 rebounds) wide open underneath.
"It was great execution," Pelphrey said. "Rotnei came off, Delvon re-screened him and he had a deep curl. We knew they were going to show out so we got the other two guys on the other side lifted out of the lane and Delvon was wide open and Julysess got it to him."
Johnson said he expected the play would likely end up coming to him when it was drawn up in the huddle.
"We knew they were going to jump out on Rotnei, but we didn't know they were going to jump out there that far," Johnson said. "He (Nobles) was kind of surprised, but when he saw me that wide open, he got it to me and I just dunked it."
It was another disappointing loss for Auburn head coach Tony Barbee, whose team fell 51-49 at Alabama on Wednesday night.
"In that moment of the game, execution is very important," Barbee said. "We executed our tails off offensively down the stretch. We executed our tails off defensively down the stretch, except for the very last play. We broke down. We were switching everything and we had a guy that didn't switch. I told the guys even though that play happened, we lost this game a long time ago because of the way that we started."
Arkansas led by as many as 10 in the first half although Britt's ill-advised goal tending on a 3-pointer at the buzzer left the Razorbacks ahead just 27-20.
That lead grew to as much as 33-20 early in the second half on Jeff Peterson's 3-pointer at the 17:26 mark.
The Razorbacks, who had 17 turnovers while shooting 44 percent, eventually coughed up the lead on a day in which they never trailed.
"Auburn's trapping defense gave us some problems surprisingly enough," Pelphrey said. "I wouldn't have believe that, but it did."
Barbee said Arkansas was getting to all the loose balls until the final 10 minutes.
"We couldn't come up with any loose balls," Barbee said. "They got every loose ball, every loose rebound, but over that last 10 minutes, we got every loose rebound and every loose ball. We made the plays. We made the stops. We made the plays offensively to give ourselves a chance. When your margin of error is very small, all it takes is one play to break down, and we broke down on that last play."
Pelphrey was not happy with the defense on Auburn's last basket and really throughout the second half.
Gabriel had 13 points to lead Auburn and came wide open on his team's last basket.
"We gave up a really, really easy basket," Pelphrey said. "Our defense in the second half wasn't very good."
The Razorbacks won the rebounding battle 31-24.
"It is about boxing, being nasty and just wanting it," Wallace said. "They (the Razorbacks) out played us in the first half and got down by 7. When the shot goes up you have to find your man, put a body on them and go get the ball. They were going through us and getting the ball."
Arkansas won despite Marshawn Powell (4 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound) and Johnson both being saddled with fouls.
"You can't play as aggressive as you usually play," Johnson said. "If you get whistled for five fouls, you have just got to play. If you are out there timid, you aren't out there helping your team."
It will be Senior Night on Wednesday when Arkansas hosts Mississippi State in an 8 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena.
Delvon Johnson slams home the game-winning points after getting a pass from Julysess Nobles.
Arkansas freshman guard Mardracus Wade battles for the basketball.
Arkansas 57, Auburn 55
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