The junior logged a career-high 29 minutes off the bench, scored 8 points, added 6 rebounds and blocked 4 shots. He gave Arkansas a jolt of energy at a position that had been lacking and easily turned in his best effort of the season.
But Sullivan left the visitors' locker room stung by one moment he'd like to forget.
Sullivan's productive night was tainted after being called for a costly -- and questionable -- intentional foul on Vanderbilt point guard Mario Moore with 7:50 left in the second half of Arkansas' 79-65 loss. The call, which gave Vanderbilt two free throws and the ball, resulted in a five-point swing that served as the breaking point for an Arkansas team needing a win to keep NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
"I had no idea (Arkansas coach Stan Heath) was going to play me so much," Sullivan said. "I just figured that if he's going to give me all these minutes, I'm not going to let him down. (The intentional foul) definitely was a turning point in the game. It gave (Vanderbilt) a lot of energy out there. After that, the game was over."
Sullivan tried to cover a hole in Arkansas' press after Vanderbilt center Dawid Przybyszewski caught a pass at midcourt, he turned and whipped it to Moore, who had beaten the Hogs downcourt. Sullivan came across the lane to challenge Moore's layup attempt, met the guard in the air and committed a foul with both arms.
Sullivan leaned over to help Moore off the floor before realizing referee Antonio Petty had signaled an intentional foul. Sullivan said Moore and coach Kevin Stallings told him it was a bad call.
"It wasn't (an intentional foul)," Sullivan said. "But (Petty) was out there trying to do his job. One ref called it, the other didn't think so. (Stallings) didn't think so. Mario Moore didn't think so. My coach didn't think so.
"But it was a call that was made and can't do nothing about it when it's made."
Said Moore: "I thought it was a clean foul," Moore said. "He helped me up. I'll take the foul. I didn't think it was a great call, but it was in our favor."
The Razorbacks trailed 55-51, but Moore knocked down two free throws to extend the Commodores' lead to six. On the ensuing possession, forward Shan Foster wiggled free and knocked down a 3-pointer that gave Vanderbilt a 60-51 lead.
At the time, it equaled the Commodores' biggest lead of the game.
"You want to find a way to play through and overcome it, but that particular play gave them a little bit of range away from us and we didn't recover very well," Heath said.
"I definitely know for sure Rashard didn't do anything to try to hurt the kid or try to intentionally foul him at all. He went up to block the shot and there was contact. I have to respect his call. We're not going to always agree."
But Heath said the intentional foul didn't negate Sullivan's efforts Saturday.
The reserve -- who entered the game averaging 13.8 minutes a game -- played 14 in the first half and recorded three of his four blocked shots, denying what would've been three easy baskets for the Commodores. He equaled his season-high in points by knocking down a perfect 6 of 6 from the free throw line and was one block shy of equaling his career high (five against Ole Miss last March).
"He played his butt off," said teammate Darian Townes. "That call that they called on him was bull."
Heath said Sullivan's contributions to the frontcourt will be needed if the Hogs intend to win their final three games. Sullivan has helped cover the struggles of freshman starter Charles Thomas, who has played a combined 14 minutes the past two games.
"I have been searching for who was going to give me something at that power forward spot," Heath said. "Tonight (Sullivan) was the answer and he responded real well. He was very aggressive, blocked some shots, grabbed some rebounds, got up to the free throw line when he was fouled and delivered.
"If he can continue to play like that, that's really going to help our team."
Sullivan: Intentional Foul Was Turning Point
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