Arkansas Gives It Up To Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Arkansas turned the ball over 15 times Saturday against Vanderbilt.

Collectively, the Razorbacks gave away any chance of making the NCAA Tournament based on their regular-season resume.

Arkansas shot 50 percent for the first time on the road this season but couldn't overcome its mistakes, lackluster transition defense and inability to find the Commodore shooters in its 79-65 loss before 13,577 in Memorial Gym.

Playing with their backs against the Tournament wall and needing to win out to post a winning record in the Southeastern Conference, Arkansas forced just 11 turnovers against the league's most giving team and allowed its most prolific 3-point offense to shoot 60 percent from long range in the second half.

The Razorbacks (17-8, 5-8) now have a week before they play Tennessee to think about hosting NIT games with the possibility of winning the SEC Tournament as their only ticket to the Big Dance.

"It makes it real tough to get in the Tournament," said sophomore Ronnie Brewer, who scored a team-high 20 on 8 of 19 shooting with 5 assists and 4 rebounds.

"We have to win out and win the SEC Tournament or something. We have to step up and play better than we have the last two games. For us to play in the Tournament, which was our goal, we have to do some things differently."

Arkansas coach Stan Heath said the Hogs now have a tough road to travel with time running out.

"Are we out of it? No," Heath said. "Will it be hard as heck to get there?

"Yeah."

After leading 34-31 at halftime, Vanderbilt (16-10, 6-6) shot nearly 60 percent in the second half (13 of 22), scored 16 points off Arkansas' 15 turnovers and Mario Moore shredded Arkansas' pressure like a shark through a school of tuna for 20 points and 13 assists with just one turnover.

"They pushed the ball and a lot of people didn't get back on defense," Brewer said. "They had the upper hand on transition. Two-on-one, three-on-one and Moore was making good passes to his perimeter players. He did a really good job and they were knocking down shots."

Shan Foster shot 10 of 17 and 5 of 10 from 3-point range to lead Vanderbilt with 25 points.

After winning the rebounding battle in six of its last seven games, Arkansas was out-boarded 28-24. The Razorbacks shot 22 of 44 (50 percent) and allowed Vanderbilt to shoot nearly the same (26 of 53, 49.1 percent).

"Our second-half defense just wasn't there," Heath said. "We were a little slow getting to them. The transition defense was 10 points where we never got back down court.

"I don't know if we got heavy-legged or got caught watching or what, but too many breakdowns in that area in 3s and transition defense was costly for us."

The Commodores started the second half hot and Arkansas couldn't cool them down. A five-point possession for Vandy following an intentional foul call on Rashard Sullivan broke the Razorbacks' spirit after pulling within 55-51 with less than eight minutes left to play.

Corey Smith scored 14 seconds into the second half on a layup, Moore hit Jason Holwerda for an alley-oop slam and then Moore knocked down consecutive 3-pointers to put Vandy up 44-37.

Olu Famutimi had his shot blocked and Foster scored an easy basket in transition to a 46-37 lead, the first of many fast-break opportunities for Vanderbilt in the second half.

Arkansas whittled it down to 46-43 on a three-point play by Jonathon  Modica, who had 10 on 4 of 6 shooting, but Moore drove again and again to the basket against the Hogs' full-court pressure and converted four straight free throws.

Two free throws by Sullivan, who played a season-high 29 minutes with 8 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks, and a steal by Famutimi leading to a Brewer bucket made it 55-51 when Moore again got loose on the break.

Sullivan went up and brought down two hands against Moore, who went to the floor and was helped up immediately by Sullivan.

Official Antinio Petty called the foul intentional and after Moore made both free throws, Foster knocked down a 3-pointer and Vanderbilt was on its way to the victory up 60-51.

"Just like that," Sullivan said, "The game got away from us."

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said it wasn't the play of the game.

"It was a big play," he said. "I don't want to say it was the game. We had control of the game. We weren't in danger of having them take control."

Seven-foot-2 center David Przybyszewski hit a pair of 3-pointers, passed the rebound from a Brewer missed free throw and Moore forwarded the ball downcourt to Foster for another layup and a 65-54 lead.

"I was really disappointed in our defense," Heath said.

Two minutes later, a Modica miss led to another breakaway for Foster and the Commodores built the lead to 72-58.

The lead changed hands six times in the first half as Vanderbilt and Arkansas took turns beating each other at their own game.

The Commodores' first four shot attempts were 3-pointers (making two) but they took a 10-5 lead on back-to-back layups by Holwerda.

Arkansas answered with a 17-10 run to take the lead on three straight 3-pointers by Brewer, Eric  Ferguson and Modica.

Vandy switched to a 2-3 zone and Arkansas struggled against it just as it did against Alabama on Wednesday with long misses by Famutimi and Brewer leading to consecutive baskets by Moore.

The Razorbacks got Vanderbilt out of the zone with an alley-oop dunk from Brewer to Famutimi following a timeout to tie it at 24 and Ferguson gave Arkansas its last lead with another trey.

Arkansas switched to its 3-2 zone and Vandy promptly ran the same alley-oop play as the Hogs from Moore to Foster, who hit a 3 on the next possession and made a steal to lead to another layup by Holwerda to cap a 7-0 run.

"They dunked on us, so we thought we'd dunk on them," Stallings said.

The Commodores may have dunked Arkansas' NCAA hopes as well.


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