Despite big nights from both K.T. Harrell and K.C. Ross-Miller, scoring 21 points each, Auburn couldn’t contain a hot shooting Arkansas (19-5, 8-3) offense with Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls leading a Razorback team that seemed like it couldn’t miss for much of the night. Shooting 53.8 percent from the floor for the night and 47.8 percent (11-23) from behind the arc, Arkansas was just too much on the night when Bruce Pearl said his team just couldn’t find a way to get a stop.
“Arkansas, they do a great job of sharing the ball,” Pearl said. “They make the extra pass. They play really well together. This is as well as they have shot the ball in a while, particularly on the road. They are better from two than from three, but tonight they were terrific from three. Qualls got them off to a great start and (Rashad) Madden shot it and (Anthlon) Bell shot it. We didn’t contest, we didn’t defend.
“I liked the tempo of the game,” he added. “I didn’t mind going up and down with them. We obviously scored and were comfortable offensively for most of the night. We couldn’t stop them. I’ll give Arkansas credit, they made shots. They shared the ball and they played unselfishly. They had scoring from a lot of different players and they went inside-out. They went inside early and when we doubled down they kicked it out and made shots. I have to give Arkansas a lot of credit for what they did.”
Even though he and the Auburn offense delivered on their end of the bargain, Ross-Miller said this one was all on the Tigers’ defense after Arkansas topped the century mark in the win.
“I think we have enough talent to play with them,” Ross-Miller said. “I don’t think we really competed enough defensively. We did a good job offensively, but we didn’t compete enough defensively.
“We did a good job (of getting into a rhythm),” he added. “There were fouls both ways. We scored 80-something points. That should be enough to win.”
The first half of Tuesday’s game was one of constant whistle blowing as the two teams combined for 32 total fouls and 42 free throw attempts with Arkansas going into the break with a 58-47 lead. Despite getting 19 points from Harrell, including 5-7 from behind the arc, the Tigers never led after an Antoine Mason three-pointer in the first minute put Auburn in front.
Harrell scored 21 points, but had just four in the second half.
With Qualls pouring in 16 points and Portis, Rashad Madden and Anthlon Bell all scoring eight, the Razorbacks built the lead to as many as 14 in the first half, but a pair of late baskets left the Tigers down just 11 heading into the second half. From that point forward it was all Arkansas.
Even with Auburn hanging around early in the second half, cutting the lead down to nine points twice in the first five minutes, the veteran Razorbacks wouldn’t wilt and it was Portis leading the way. When Harrell drained a pair of free throws with 16:12 remaining to make it 66-57 Arkansas the Auburn crowd came to life for what they hoped was a run by the home team, but instead baskets by Portis and Qualls pushed the advantage back to a dozen.
A Ross-Miller basket got things back to just 10 before a string of seven consecutive Arkansas points put this one away for good. Portis scored the first two while Bell’s triple put the dagger in the Tigers, making it 78-61 Hogs. Auburn never got closer than 12 the rest of the way as Pearl emptied the bench in the final minutes of the loss.
Auburn guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen got off to a hot start, scoring five of the first eight points for the Tigers in just over three minutes while handling the Arkansas press with ease. Unfortunately for Shamsid-Deen and the Tigers his shoulder problems flared up again as his left shoulder went out of socket with 16:36 left in the first half and had to be forced back into place. That kept him out of action for the rest of the night and left the Tigers without their best ballhandler. Turning the ball over 17 times was one of the differences in the game and no Tahj was a big reason why that happened.
"His shoulder popped out and stayed out so it is probably a little bit more serious than his other injuries," Pearl said. "It is unfortunate because he got off to a great start. His quickness and defensive ability in a game like this would have helped us.”
Arkansas big man Bobby Portis scored 22 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and blocked a pair of shots in just 27 minutes to lead the team in all three categories. Shooting 60 percent (9-15) from the field, Portis controlled the paint in the win.
Stat Of The Night:
Auburn and Arkansas combined for 53 total fouls called with the Tigers shooting 40 free throws for the game, connecting on 31 for 77.5 percent.
Stat Of The Night, Pt. 2
With a huge size advantage Arkansas outscored Auburn 44-20 in the paint, proving more than enough differential for the win. The Razorbacks also outscored the Tigers 22-7 off turnovers, a huge point of emphasis for Auburn entering the game against the pressure defense of Arkansas.