NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Arkansas looked like a different team on the road on Saturday – both literally and figuratively.
Michael Qualls – who along with his team were wearing anthracite uniforms for the first time this year – made a game-winning 3-pointer with four seconds left and led the way with 17 points as the Razorbacks downed Vanderbilt 77-75 Saturday afternoon at Memorial Gym.
Coty Clarke added 14 points, Rashad Madden 12 and Mardracus Wade a season-high 11 points off the bench as the Razorbacks (15-8, 4-6) won their first true road game of the season after four previous losses and only the third victory in hostile territory in the last three years.
"I thought our guys trusted each other," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said of a victory that ended the Commodores' four-game winning streak. "We didn't settle. We kept attacking...Our guys made the right play, made the right decision."
Qualls, who was suspended for last Saturday's game at LSU along with Alandise Harris, got the chance to make up for that in a big way after Commodore senior guard Kyle Fuller hit two free throws with 11 seconds left.
"His number was called and he was ready," Anderson said. "He made some early in the game. He always wants to be in that position. He frowns everytime somebody else is in that position. It was an opportunity for him to step up and make a play and I am proud of him. It just shows me the growth and maturity of him as a player."
The Razorbacks – who made 7 of their first 10 shots from the floor and shot 54 percent from the field on the day - got a timeout and Madden drove and kicked out to an open Qualls, who calmly netted his 3-pointer from the left wing.
That held up when Rod Odom – who led Vanderbilt with 22 points while Fuller added 20 – missed a hurried 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"I always want to be there for my team, and for me to be here and make a play for them," Qualls said afterwards. "… We didn't do anything we weren't supposed to do, so feel like this is the first game where we came out and played tenacious all 40 minutes. Not 30, not 25, we played all 40 minutes. We're going to try to continue to do that and stay on that pace."
Qualls - who was 3-of-5 on the day from 3-point range as the Razorbacks' went a sizzling 10-of-16 overall - was rather calm about hitting the big shot and noted that he wasn't going to celebrate too much about one road win because Arkansas needs more of them.
"We're trying to get it going, so it ain't no time for celebrations and laughs and giggles," Qualls said.
Madden, who drew some criticism earlier for taking a contested 3-pointer late in a loss at Georgia, said it was simply a matter of executing in those closing seconds.
"It was pretty much whatever the defense did," Madden said. "Just read the defense. But we knew coming in, when you drive, they always close up, because they play a packed defense. I'd been doing it pretty much the whole game. It just happened like that. I drove and got a good screen from Coty, and they came, and what we thought would happen, happened. The kick out to Mike, and Mike knocked it down."
Madden twice tied the game with a 3-pointer at the 2:18 mark and a shot in the lane – the final one making it 73-73 with 1:27 left.
"I thought we concentrated on our defense and we just found a way to win," Anderson said I thought our guys trusted each other. We didn't settle. We kept attacking...Our guys made the right play, made the right decision.
"Ky is a guy that has sometimes been settling, but I thought Ky did a tremendous job of executing going down the stretch," Anderson added "He's learning, our team learn is learning and the bottom line is our guys have to step up and make plays – even to the last play."
Vanderbilt threw a floor-length pass with 2.6 seconds left that went out of bounds of Clarke. Refs adjusted the clock to 1.4 seconds, giving the Commodores a shot to pull it out.
Qualls made Odom adjust to catch the ball and he was off-balance as he attempted the final shot of the game.
"Odom had a good shot at the basket," But it's different in that situation in that he has got to make it. He has got to make it. I thought Mike did a good job of screening the ball. He got a good look at it and we were just fortuante to have a couple of more points than Vandy did today."
Odom, a skilled 6-9 forward, had already hit a trio of 3-pointer and has made as many as six in a game this season.
"It was wide open. Coach drew up a great play," Odom said. "Can't really ask for a better shot than that in that "That was the one we were playing for. We got one of the best shooters in the league a pretty open shot and it just came up a little bit short. That's how it goes sometimes."
Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings was obviously disappointed in the home loss for his Commodores (13-9, 5-5).
"I didn't think our defense was very good," Stallings said. "Obviously, we're disappointed to lose one in this fashion, but our guys fought hard and played hard. They just made one more play than we did."
He was surprised the shot didn't go down for Odom.
"That was the one we were playing for," Stallings said. "We got one of the best shooters in the league a pretty open shot and it just came up a little bit short. That's how it goes sometimes."
Arkansas freshman Bobby Portis – who had a rookie school record of 35 points as well as 9 rebounds and 6 blocks in Wednesday's win over Alabama – had just 8 points and 5 rebounds on Saturday, but Anderson was pleased with his effort.
"I thought Vandy did a good job of concentrating on Bobby," Anderson said. "They pushed him out and pushed him around. The beauty of it is our guys went through Bobby. A lot of times Bobby was distributing the ball to guys and guys made shots. Shooting is contangious. We shot 54 percent in the second half of the Alabama game. It makes sense that we came out today and made shots at the beginning.
"Coty wasn't hesitating," Anderson added. "He was catching and shooting the basketball. I thought Wade gave us some great, great minutes. Everybody came off and played well. JaCorey Williams had a big steal when they had a chance to take the lead going down the stretch. Alandise (Harris) came in and made big plays."
Arkansas led 68-59 with 8:47 left and proceeded to go scoreless over the next six-plus minutes until Madden's 3-pointer that tied it 74-74 at the 2:21 mark.
During the time, Vanderbilt went on a 12-0 run to take a 71-68 lead.
"We were more locked in," Stallings said. "We were taking the fight to them. They spent most of the afternoon taking the fight to us, which is why they won. In the last six or seven minutes we started taking the fight to them. They shot the ball well. They just made too many shots and, again, some of that was because of our defense and some of was because of really good offense."
Anderson said his team started playing not to lose instead of playing to win, but then had to play to win after getting behind.
"I thought our guys were aggressive (at the end)," Anderson said. "I thought we kind of played not to lose going up until that stretch. Going down that stretch, you have no choice. I thought we got the right guys the ball at the right time. We had some looks...If it wasn't blood, we weren't gettting a shot off. Bobby and Coty and them had some lay ups right up under the basket and we just missed them."
Arkansas will head back out on the road Thursday when it faces Missouri, who lost 91-88 at Ole Miss on Saturday.
"It's real big," Madden said of the win. "Not only for us as far as a team, but for our confidence boost, to know that we know what it takes to win on the road and what we've got to do. This will give us more confidence to go up against Mizzou."
Arkansas' Bobby Portis and Vanderbilt's James Siakam follow the flight of a loose basketball.
Arkansas 77, Vanderbilt 75
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