NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Once again the struggling Razorback basketball team proved it could compete with an SEC team on the road for a while, just not beat one.
Jeff Taylor had 16 points, Brad Tinsley 13 and A.J. Ogilvy 12 points and 10 rebounds as Vanderbilt downed the University of Arkansas 75-58 Sunday afternoon before 14,316 fans at Memorial Coliseum in both teams' regular-season finale.
Courtney Fortson had 18 points and fellow freshman guard Rotnei Clarke 17 for Arkansas (14-15, 2-14), which shot a season-low 29 percent from the field – including 19 percent in the second half - in completing a winless journey through eight SEC road games.
"Obviously tonight we had a very, very difficult time in the second half shooting the basketball," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "… That's a tough number. Certainly you are not going to win any games on the road or probably even at home shooting 18 percent in a half.
"Vanderbilt is good, but we really just struggled scoring the ball," Pelphrey added. "… And it is tough when big Mike (Washington) only gets six points. That was a factor and an issue."
The Razorbacks, who trailed just 66-58 with 2:07 remaining, will play Florida Thursday night at 8:45 CST in the opening round of the SEC Tournament in Tampa.
If Arkansas were to upset Florida, the Razorbacks – who got to last season's SEC Tournament championship game - would play Auburn on Friday night.
"Our regular season is over with, our non-conference season is over with and now the third part – the postseason – is available," Pelphrey said. "They reward is an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. For us it is going to be a four-game deal if that is going to happen."
Vanderbilt (19-11, 8-8) won its first regular-season finale in Kevin Stallings' nine years at the school and have won three games in a row and 7 of 10.
The Commodores – who shot 48 percent – outrebounded the Razorbacks 46-31, with both teams getting 14 offensive rebounds.
Fortson was 7-of-27 (1 of 12 in the second half) from the field and Clarke 6-of-14 (5 of 8 from 3-point range) on a day when they combined to score nearly half of their team's points and take 41 of their team's 68 shots.
As a team, Arkansas was 8-of-21 from 3-point range and 10 of 14 from the free-throw line, but just 12 of 47 from inside the arc.
"I think sometimes you want to go get baskets to get your team started and that is part of his (Fortson's) fighting spirit that we love. He has a short memory from one place to the next, but there are times when that hurts you, and tonight I thought there were more opportunities for him to pass it off."
Arkansas trailed by as many as 10 in the first half, but later used an 11-2 run to pull into a tie.
Fortson and Clarke combined for all 11 of those points with Clarke scoring the last eight and tying the game 30-30 when he hit his second consecutive 3-pointer with 3:35 left in the half.
Vanderbilt steadied itself and went on a 9-2 run, but Fortson's 3-pointer at the buzzer cut it to 39-35 at intermission.
Clarke and Britt buried 3-pointers early in the second half on consecutive trips to bring Arkansas within 42-41.
The Commodores went back up by seven before Fortson's bucket cut it to 51-47 with 11:27 remaining.
It would the be last points the Razorbacks would score for over six minutes.
Washington, who got into early foul trouble again, hit two free throws – his first points of the day – with 5:10 left in the game.
Arkansas will take an NCAA mandated day off on Monday and then get back to practice on Tuesday.
"You can't win the next three until you win the first one so that will be where our total focus will be," Pelphrey said.
Vanderbilt 75, Arkansas 58
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