Stephen F. Austin had a chance to send it into overtime on a missed 3-point shot from the corner at the buzzer. Mark Gomilla's shot was long and skipped off the back side of the iron.
Attendance was announced at 8,859. That probably included the Razorback football team which just made an appearance at halftime when Liberty Bowl officials were on the court.
Arkansas improved to 6-5. Stephen F. Austin fell to 6-3.
Washington scored 25 points with 11 rebounds. He also had three assists as guards were cutting off entry passes to the 6-10 pivot. Just as impressive, he dove on the floor for loose balls as the Hogs had their best all-around effort of the season.
"I'm feeling 100 percent better," Washington said. "I'm still taking treatment, but I'm so much better than I was at the beginning (of the season)."
Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said, "Michael led us. It was his energy all the way through that pushed us to this (victory). His performance was huge. I don't know if we win without him."
Stef Welsh had a season-best 13 points in 25 minutes. Marcus Britt had a brilliant night, a season-best 11. Rotnei Clarke, slowed by a knee injury, didn't start, but scored 9 points in 27 minutes.
Guard Walt Harris led SFA with 22 points. But he sustained a back injury and played just 23 minutes.
Britt's line was perfect. He was 3 of 3 from the field, 1 of 1 on threes, 4 of 4 from the line, 3 rebounds and 5 assists. He did not commit a turnover in 33 minutes.
Pelphrey said it was a matter of experience showing in a tough, hard-fought game.
"You can tell first-year players, but sometimes they don't understand until they see it," Pelphrey said. "If you look at who played well today, it was the ones with experience. That's the way it usually works on most teams. The best lessons are learned on wins. There is a lot to teach, but it's easier after wins.
"Marcus played very well. He was efficient. We see things like that in practice. We prod him for more of it. We certainly encourage him because he doesn't take bad shots. He played tremendous defense. He was chasing their leading scorer."
Arkansas trailed by 33-28 at intermission, but they clawed back behind Welsh, Clarke and Britt to take a 47-40 lead at the 13:05 mark and stretched it to 62-51 with 5:03.
Welsh had back-to-back threes and then a layup after a feed from Washington to finish a 10-2 run for that 11-point lead. From there, it was a dogfight.
SFA's Lumberjacks had two fruitful possessions back to back to score 8 straight points. They got six free throws on one possession, nailing four. They took advantage of three offensive rebounds on charity misses. Then, they got a 4-0 possession, again courtesy of an offensive rebound on a missed foul shot.
The Hogs survived despite making only one field in the final five minutes, Washington's power move on the low post above two Lumberjacks. That came with 1:14 left to make it 68-64.
Clarke hit the second half of two foul shots to set the final score with 11.2 seconds left, setting up the final possession for the Lumberjacks.
"We thought about fouling," said Pelphrey, noting the lead was 3 points. "But it was a lot of time left."
He wanted to guard the 3-point shooters and was surprised someone left a wing man open to double the point guard.
"Why we doubled the penetration, I don't know," he said. "We did have someone run at the shooter."
Welsh said, "It was Rotnei who ran at him." Pelphrey was pleased with the effort, noting the repeated times the Hogs were on the floor for loose balls.
"Our assistant coaches had remarked that our young guys don't dive on the floor," he said. "We went back to film of last year and it was Michael, Stef, Rotnei and Marcus on the floor. We saw more guys on the floor tonight.
"Washington is physical. Everyone sees that he's a long guy, but he's on the floor and he takes charges. That takes a lot out of a big guy. He physically competes."
Welsh said, "It was a big-time game from a big-time player. We wanted to go right to Mike and we did. And, when he gets going, it makes it a lot easier for the rest of us." Pelphrey thought both sides competed.
"I thought we had to be the better team tonight," he said. "You have to be the tougher team to win a game like this. You can talk about names, but they have been successful. They are a tough, hard team around the basket."
SFA coach Danny Kaspar said, "Arkansas has struggled of late, but I thought they played respectfully well today. I was proud of our team. They played hard. I thought Arkansas played pretty good basketball, especially the second half. I think the fans got their money's worth."
Pelphrey said Clarke has practiced only once over the last two weeks since just before the start of finals.
"He did a little at the shoot around, but we didn't let him do much in the warm-up," Pelphrey said. "We just kinda sprinkled him in, but he hit a couple of big threes."
The Hogs return to the floor Tuesday night against Missouri State. Pelphrey was asked if sophomore guard Courtney Fortson could return for that game.
"I'm not answering that," he said. He noted that the "plan" for Fortson "is in place and it's going well."