Mike Anderson was clear that he thought Arkansas was "behind the eight ball" after losing two of three to start the SEC basketball season. With the second home loss of the season, the 2-5 Razorbacks might be behind the mountain now.
Missouri got its first victory in eight trips to Bud Walton Arena with a 16-of-16 performance in the second half for a 75-71 victory that Anderson said was "a step back" after two near misses on the road and a big victory over Auburn.
Asked if the loss was a blow to the Arkansas hopes for an NCAA tournament finish, Anderson talked more about where the Hogs are now than where they might be in postseason.
"I'm more concerned for us to continue to get better," Anderson said. "We took a step back. We'd been playing the right way, sharing the ball. Tonight we settled (for jump shots).
"We made a run in the second half. We always talk about finishing the defensive possession. We did play a good possession of defense, but we didn't get the rebound to finish it off."
That came on Missouri's only missed shot in the last four minutes after the Hogs had rallied to take a 61-60 lead on a Michael Qualls 3-pointer at the 3:25 mark. With the game tied at 64, Earnest Ross rebounded a teammate's miss at the 1:16 mark and then canned a three with 1:06 left.
Ross, an Auburn transfer, made two free throws with 46.4 seconds to play after Coty Clarke fouled him 90 feet away in the press. The Tigers would go 10 of 10 from the line in the final four minutes.
After losing nice second-half leads at both Georgia and Tennessee the previous week, it was just the opposite against the Tigers. The Hogs couldn't find the range on threes early in the game as Mizzou led by 10 at the 5:37 mark of the first half.
Arkansas rallied on threes by Michael Qualls and Clarke in the final 4:17 of the first half to cut it to 36-34 at intermission. The Hogs landed a 7-0 run to lead at 43-41, then climbed back from a 56-46 deficit to tie it on a Rashad Madden free throw. Their only lead in the last 15 minutes came on the Qualls three.
Missouri led the rebounds, 42-26, a stat Madden pointed to as a slipping point for the Hogs after handling that area better in the previous set of games.
"We just didn't go get them," Madden said. "We have to give better effort. Rebounding is something we have to do."
Qualls said, "Tonight we got killed on the boards. It had been a big focus in our previous few games, but we didn't do it tonight, like two missed free throws they had that we gave up offensive boards."
The second home loss was a big blow for a team that has been rock solid in its home arena.
"Arkansas is always supposed to take care of home," Qualls said. "We haven't been doing too good. We can't bask in it. We have to finish games out."
Madden led the Hogs with 20 points. Bobby Portis and Qualls each scored 16. There wasn't much balance behind them with Clarke scoring 7 points, no one else more than 3 points.
Missouri improved to 16-4, 4-3 ahead of a contest against Kentucky. Head coach Frank Haith said toughness was the key ingredient to the road win.
"It was a great win," he said. "We showed great toughness to come into this building, one of the great buildings, against a great team. I'm proud of our guys."
Ross said, "The offensive rebound down the stretch was very big. Then the three was big with everyone collapsing on Jordan Clarkson's drive. We thought the kick out would be open.
"At the end, with a tie game, coach preaches toughness. An offensive rebound is straight out toughness."
Haith did not know the Tigers had not won in Bud Walton.
"It's a great accomplishment," he said. "It's a tough place to go get a win. Mike has done a great job and this building is magical."
The cool foul shooting in the second half was key for the Tigers.
"We had the right guys at the line," Haith said of the 16-of-16 second half. "Good teams are able to make free throws."
On his timeout with 1:16 left, Haith said, "We wanted to execute. We got the shot we wanted. Jordan faked a ball screen, a misdirection. They collapsed and he hit Earnest."
On the first half lead, Haith said the goal was to win the paint while minimizing the Arkansas 3-point shooting.
"We did that somewhat, but they still made eight threes," Haith said. "They can shoot the three in this building, but we didn't want to give up the paint. In the second half, we played better defense and closed out on their 3-point shooters."
Anderson said the Hogs didn't go into Portis enough.
"I just think we settled and we wanted to get it to Bobby inside," Anderson said. "We did sometimes, but not enough. I thought we came out a little flat. We did get some energy and made a comeback, but sometimes you use up a lot in that comeback. I just didn't think we had the energy we normally had at the outset."
Qualls said, "Maybe we just thought we would take care of home. Maybe we came out a little lackadaisical."
Michael Qualls scored 16 points.
Rashad Madden goes to the basket.
Kikko Haydar fights on defense.
Madden dives for a loose ball for a steal.
Photos by Jason Ivester
Missouri 75, Arkansas 71
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