By the time Arkansas' defense finally knocked down Missouri 62-52 on Tuesday night to race to 6-1, sixth-year Tigers coach Quin Snyder looked haggard despite the gray pin-stripe suit and stylish haircut, much like Barney when caught mugging with Thelma Lou.
Speaking of such, there was about as much scoring on the Mizzou Arena scoreboard Kiss Kam during timeouts.
This was crucial for Arkansas - a road win against a big-name program, continued momentum from the win against Tulsa and close call vs. No. 1 Illinois and continued confidence during an eight-day game break - and third-year Arkansas coach Stan Heath and company will certainly take it.
"I felt that, man, if we got a little bit of a lead on Missouri, we could just get 'em to fold," Heath said. "But they didn't."
The Hogs shook off horrible first-half shooting (39 percent from the floor), and the hypnotically slow, yet pesky, Tigers by tightening their defensive grip and shoving the ball inside.
"This team decided, 'You know what? We're not going to just shoot jump shots,'" Heath said.
The result was 60 percent second-half shooting, bolstered by most of Ronnie Brewer's 5 assists, and an armful of steals, layups, acrobatic slams (two by Brewer, one by Olu Famutimi) and by making 7 of 8 free throws in the last minute and 38 seconds.
"It might've been an ugly game, but our main goal was to go out there and keep on fighting the entire game and never give up," said Brewer, who had a game-high 20 points on 7 of 13 shooting from the floor and by sinking all six free-throw attempts. "We knew that it was going to be sort of a sluggish (game), and when you look at the score, there weren't a lot of points on the board.
"But we just wanted to dig down and see who had the most heart. And we felt we had a lot of heart in this game."
Heath reiterated that.
Boy, but it sure was ugly.
It started beautifully for the Hogs with Brewer hitting a jumper from the top left, then canning another short jumper after a Dontell Jefferson steal. After a Famutimi theft and pass to Brewer, who zipped it to Charles Thomas for the finish, Arkansas led 6-0 and Missouri fans already were booing.
But that was about the extent of the offensive show.
With 8 minutes left in the first half here in this brand-new arena ($75 million for that?), Arkansas guard Eric Ferguson scooted full-court and into the teeth of the Tigers' defense.
Smothered by long arms just inside the free-throw line, Ferguson got no help and a five seconds call.
Arkansas trailed 12-10. Yep, 12-10.
At the timeout, Ferguson barked at forward Rashard Sullivan for not coming to his aid and Sullivan yelped back.
Heath calmly instructed from his chair in the huddle.
"It was sort of frustrating that we couldn't get in the flow we wanted to," Brewer said. "We were trying to speed 'em up at the beginning. We did a good job of that.
"Then they sort of slowed it down and got sluggish with the ball."
Arkansas looked nothing like the team that hung with No. 1 Illinois in North Little Rock on Saturday before falling 72-60. But the Razorbacks did look a bit like the Fighting Illini - frustrated, flustered, confused, out of sync -during much of this.
Against much the same slow, methodical team they butchered 75-46 in Fayetteville last season, the Hogs were mired in first-half slop. Layups spun out, jumpers clanged and drives went as flat as the 10,086 (5,000 under capacity, but a record thus far) Missouri fans on hand as Arkansas took a 27-25 lead into intermission.
Fortunately for Arkansas, Missouri - clearly in serious rebuilding mode - was even worse. The Tigers made just 9 of 29 first-half field-goal attempts and finished the game 17 of 57 (29.8 percent).
Snyder didn't sound too high on the Hogs, saying it really was just a matter of his players missing wide-open shots.
"Those are shots you need to take - need to make 'em if you want to win," Snyder said. "There's some plays there I'd like to think we can make."
No, Arkansas' press didn't drive Missouri crazy. The Hogs managed 10 steals, but the Tigers had 13.
This, the gamebreaker, sums Tuesday night up best: With Arkansas ahead 47-44 with just under four minutes to play, Missouri guard Thomas Gardner stripped the ball from Brewer, then awkwardly loped toward the basket. Gardner's drive rolled out and there was a mad scramble on the right side of the court.
Somehow the Hogs came up with the ball and Ferguson was found for an open 3-pointer. He swished it (the only Hogs trey the whole night), giving Arkansas a 50-44 lead and sending Missouri fans to the parking lots.
"When we needed to make plays, we did," Heath said.
Games like this, that's all that matters.
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