The senior stood outside the Commodores' locker room and admitted coach Kevin Stallings had warned his team in the waning seconds of the 78-73 loss at Arkansas. But when Jermaine Beal's second free throw dropped through the net with 7.3 seconds left, Neltner instinctively called a timeout. It was one the Commodores didn't have.
"Coach Stallings is usually good about keeping his timeouts at the end of games," Neltner said. "They remind us hundreds of times during timeouts and I just forgot."
Neltner's mistake — which came with the Razorbacks leading 74-73 — resulted in a technical foul and helped seal Vanderbilt's fate Saturday.
The ill-fated timeout — which was made infamous by former Michigan forward's Chris Webber's gaffe in the closing seconds of the 1993 national title game — overshadowed a solid night by Neltner, who scored 14 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. It also surprised Stallings.
"It's just one of those things," he said. "I really truly don't know why we called that timeout, but our guys are usually very reliable and that's the first time we've ever had a slip-up quite like that. That's OK."
Arkansas was awarded two free throws as a result of the technical, which forward Sonny Weems made to give the Hogs a 76-73 lead. The Razorbacks also got the ball. It was inbounded to Weems, who was fouled again with 6.9 seconds left and made two more free throws.
Weems — as well as Arkansas coach John Pelphrey — didn't realize what happened when Neltner was assessed the technical. But Weems said the Razorbacks were eager to take advantage of the miscue.
"I didn't know anything about it," Weems said. "It surprised me, but it obviously worked in our favor."
Beal was on the free-throw line with 7.3 seconds left primarily because of Vandy forward Shan Foster's hot hand. The SEC's leading scorer and top 3-point shooter kept the Commodores within striking distance by knocking down big shots well beyond the arc in the final minutes.
So instead of risking the chance of a game-tying 3-pointer, point guard Gary Ervin fouled Beal as he crossed the midcourt line.
"There was no question we were going to do it," Pelphrey said. "He makes you think you should start fouling with 25 seconds."
Foster — who is one of the favorites for SEC Player of the Year — finished with 22 points and made six 3-pointers. He also reached a career milestone, becoming the school's all-time leading scorer. Foster surpassed Matt Freije with a 3-pointer with 1:38 left in the game.
But Foster wishes he could've scored more. He missed a shot from the top of the key that would've tied the game 70-68 in the final minute.
"It was just a little bit long and the game would've been a lot more fun if he would've made it," Stallings said. "That's the nature of the game. Shan was terrific (Saturday) and has been terrific all season long."
Ervin Solid Again
Ervin may have scored 13 points, but Pelphrey didn't want to talk about the senior's offensive output Saturday. He was more impressed by the other things the point guard accomplished against Vandy.
Ervin handed out 7 assists and only turned the ball over once against the Commodores. In addition, he two rebounds. The most important came with 25.8 seconds left when he outjumped two defenders to end a possession in which the Commodores got five shots at the basket.
"He's 5-foot nothing and left the floor as high as he has all year and took the ball," Pelphrey said. "That was a win. That was a championship. He wanted that rebound. Those are the plays that stand out to me."
Sealing the Deal
Arkansas has been shaky at the free-throw line this season, but was 13-of-18 on Saturday. More important, the Razorbacks went 8-for-8 from the stripe in the final 25 seconds to clinch the win.
Ervin hit the first two, which gave the Hogs a 72-68 lead. Weems — who scored 20 points — made the final six to close the game.
"I told (Pelphrey) I want them," Weems said about the late free throw attempts. "I want to take the free throws and he gave them to me."
The win had some historical significance for Pelphrey. He now has led the Razorbacks to 19 wins this season, which ties Eugene Lambert with the most in school history for a first-year coach. Lambert led the Razorbacks to a 19-7 record in 1943. ... Vanderbilt's starting guards Beal and Alex Gordon shot a combined 1-for-16. They were averaging a combined 19 points entering the game, but finished with five. ... Vanderbilt's loss dropped Stallings to 2-8 in his career against the Hogs. That includes an 0-5 mark in Bud Walton Arena.
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