The Razorbacks, fresh off an impressive win over Memphis three days earlier, outscored the Tigers 24-3 over an eight-minute stretch that began late in the first half to break up an early Auburn lead on the way to the road win. For the Tigers the story was once again problems from the line as they couldn't capitalize on the many opportunities the Razorbacks gave them and fell just short in their attempt at the all-important home win in SEC play.
"It didn't help us," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis noted about his team's free throw shooting. "I thought we started out okay (made five of first seven). We hit the first few but then it got away. That's an area that we simply have to get better at…I don't think there is any hiding that. We should be better."
Trailing 42-37 at the break following the big run by the Razorbacks to close the first half, the Tigers hoped to get off to a solid start in the last stanza but that wasn't the case. A Dionisio Gomez jumper just 12 seconds into the half and a Brandon Dean layup just 28 seconds later pushed the Arkansas lead quickly to nine points and put Auburn squarely behind the eight ball on its home court. The Razorbacks would eventually push the lead to 11 on a Jannero Pargo jumper at the 16:48 mark of the second half before Auburn would make a run at the deep and explosive Hogs.
"I think we matched their intensity starting off," Marquis Daniels said. "For some reason I think we got too confident in ourselves and we kind of backed off when we had our lead. Instead of being aggressive we backed off and became passive and they started being more aggressive than we were."
Marquis Daniels led the Tigers in scoring Saturday.
Keyed by the play of Daniels, who led the team with 21 points, and Adam Harrington the Tigers would make a run at Arkansas in the second half. Trailing 52-41, Daniels hit a jumper from the top of the key and added a free throw to cut the lead to eight. Following free throws by Dwayne Mitchell and a three-pointer by Mack McGadney with the shot clock running down, the run was capped by a Harrington bomb from the right wing that made the score 54-52 Arkansas with 14:16 remaining in the game.
Relying on the precision shooting of Harrington up to that point, the Tigers would suffer a serious blow to their chances when he picked up his fourth foul at the 13:47 mark of the game. From that moment until he returned to the lineup, it was all Arkansas. The Hogs immediately answered with a Charles Tatum three-pointer and before the run fizzled the lead would get to as many as 12 points when Brandon Dean made the second of two free throws with 7:24 left in the contest. Needing a pick-me-up, Ellis inserted Harrington back into the lineup and it gave the Tigers some life.
Showing the form that made him a high school All-American last season, Marco Killingsworth would score seven of his 10 points in the next five minutes as the Tigers attempted the comeback. But it wasn't to be as Auburn could never get the lead below four the rest of the way and Arkansas would escape with the victory.
In addition to Daniels and Robinson, Harrington added 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting behind the arc while Killingsworth chipped in with 11 and McGadney totaled 10 points and six rebounds. For the Hogs reserve Carl Baker led the way with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in just 20 minutes of action while freshman J.J. Sullinger added 16 off the bench. Pargo and Dean both added 10 as the Razorbacks used their overwhelming bench advantage to outscore the Tigers 48-17 in that department, one of the major factors in the game. With Robinson's help the Tigers were able to out-rebound the Hogs 41-32 but to no avail as the visitors walked away with the win.
Mack McGadney started at center for the Tigers.
Without center Kyle Davis to guard the basket and swat opposing shots into the second and third rows, the Tiger defense was nowhere near the ferocious unit of late. Allowing the Hogs to hit 52.6 percent of their shots from the floor, including 21-of-32 from inside the three-point arc, Auburn couldn't keep the Arkansas team from taking the ball to the basket. That's something that likely would not have been a factor had Davis played in the game. Ellis said following the game that Davis would be evaluated on Monday and if the movement in his elbow isn't better, surgery would likely be required causing the sophomore to miss three to four weeks while recovering.
The first half was the story of runs as both teams used streaks to build leads. The first came by the Tigers as Harrington jump-started a one-point Auburn lead with four three-pointers in a span of just over five minutes that gave his team a 34-22 lead with just under five minutes left in the half. From that point forward it was all Arkansas as the Razorbacks outscored the Tigers 20-3 to close the half and take a five-point lead into the break. Up just one with under one minute left, Baker scored two baskets in a span of just 11 seconds to make the score 42-37 after 20 minutes of play, the last coming on an errant McGadney inbound pass with just two seconds left in the half.
"Obviously, it hurt," Harrington noted of the run. "We were up 10 or 12 and things just really didn't go our way. Some calls didn't go our way and Carl Baker made some baskets. He came in and had 17 points and he really hasn't done anything for them all year. He's a great player, that's not saying he isn't a good player, he did great tonight and that really hurt us. I think we did a good job on their other guys, but Baker really came in and knocked the shots down."
The Tigers hit the road for only the second time this season Wednesday night when the travel to Oxford to face the Ole Miss Rebels. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and there is no television.
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