Arkansas 65, Auburn 57

Gary Ervin scores all 18 of his points in the second half to help Arkansas rally past Auburn 65-57 Wednesday night before 16,952 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

Facing a must-win situation, the University of Arkansas did just that.

Gary Ervin scored all of his game-high 18 points in the second half to lead four Razorbacks in double figures as Arkansas rallied from a five-point deficit after intermission to down Auburn 65-57 Wednesday night before 16,952 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

"Gary Ervin does a few things that make me scratch my head at times, but tonight give him credit where credit is due," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "I am proud of what the guy did in the second half.

"Gary is one of those guys that can shoot it," Heath added. "If he can make a shot or two and get some confidence he can become a scorer."

The win moved Arkansas into a second place tie in the SEC's Western Division with Ole Miss.

It would have actually put the Razorbacks in first had not Ronald Steele's basket not lifted first place Alabama (18-5, 5-4) beat Mississippi State 80-79.

Patrick Beverley added 13, Darian Townes 11 and Charles Thomas 10 and 7 rebounds and Steven Hill 8 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks for Arkansas.

Hill had to leave the game with 1:28 left when when he injured himself going up for a alley-oop slam basket that essentially put the fame away at 61-55.

"They told me that it was a muscle thing," Hill said about an hour after the game. "I'll be able to play Saturday at LSU."

Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo applauded Hill's effort.

"Steven Hill made some tough blocks tonight," Lebo said. "He is a difference maker in their defense. You have that guy hanging back there and he can take away some mistakes you make on the perimeter."

Our guys inside didn't do a very good job of playing physical against him," Lebo continued. "In the SEC you have to play through contact and that is something we struggled with tonight."

Sonny Weems had just 2 points, but a career-high 9 assists and 3 turnover.

Auburn had 19 turnovers and Arkansas - who has been streessing mot making turnovers in practice and running being put in when you make two - had 15.

"We were sharper with our passes and not as risky," Heath said. "We have got things in place in practice to punish our guys for the turnovers. We have done it earlier this year for a few games and then we would get out of it for a few practices. Now we aren't going to get out of it for the rest of the year. The punishment is at the severest level right now.

"This wasn't Sonny's best game," Heath added. "He didn't shoot it very well (1 of 7), but he found other ways to help us. He had nine assists and of those three turnovers, two of them should have been lay-ups because they were good passes."

The Razorbacks shot 61.5 percent from the field in the second half, good enough to get to 50 percent for the game.

Arkansas won despite being 9-of-17 from the free throw, including just 5-of-13 in the second half.

Ervin threw in a shot from halfcourt as the buzzer sounded that was initially ruled good and tied the score at 29-29.

But a review of the play showed the shot was not released before the red light went off and left Auburn ahead 29-26 at the break.

"Even though they didn't count it, it still gave us momentum," Ervin said. "We knew they were looking at it and then we heard the crowd groan so we knew then it wasn't good. Whether the basket was good or not, we still used it. We took it to the second half."

It was still 33-30 when Lebo put a box-and-one on Beverley.

Ervin responded with back-to-back 3-pointers, the second giving Arkansas the lead for good at 36-35 with 15:41 left in the game.

Ervin was 7-of-11 from the field in the second half after going 0-of-2 before intermission.

"I try not to force things," Ervin said. "I try to take open shots. They left me open and the basket got big after the first one. They came out in that box-and-one. I'm sure their coach told them I wouldn't be looking to score. This is going to sound funny, but I can shoot from long range, making those two threes gave me confidence."

Lebo said he took his best shot and it failed.

"Sometimes you have to pick your poison," Lebo said. "We did a good job on Beverley so who are you going to lay off? It was Ervin tonight and he made us pay."

That lead would grow to as much when Townes' scored inside to complete a 9-0 run as the Razorbacks moved ahead 42-35 with 13:40 remaining.

Auburn would get as close as 49-48 on Quan Prowell's lay-up at the 6:44 mark.

But Beverley's old-fashioned 3-point play and Townes' basket inside surged Arkansas back ahed 54-48 and the Razorbacks then held the Tigers at bay the rest of the way.

Ervin's 18 points tied the same amount he put in against Alabama earlier this season, but was not the best output of his career which happened in his first two years at Mississippi State. "One of their coaches told me the last time that Gary played against Auburn, he got 25 points," Heath said. "This second half tonight came at a good time for us." Josh Dollard had 15 points to lead five Auburn players in double figures with Quantez Robertson, Korvotney Barber and Freank Tolbert all adding 10 each.

Auburn shot 42.3 percent from the field for the game and hit 7-of-8 free throws.

Arkansas will get back to action on Saturday at 2:05 when it travels to play LSU.

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