"I thought we did a good job defensively for most of the game and we did a really nice job on the glass," said Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "We've been focusing on the two seconds that the ball has been in the air.
"I thought Vot was terrific on the glass using his quickness against people who are much bigger. Twelve (points) and 14 (rebounds) against those big guys is a pretty good night's work.
It wasn't a pretty performance by the Tigers offensively as they shot just 35.7 percent from the floor, had 14 turnovers and also committed 21 fouls. However, it was a gutty effort on the glass and on defense that got the ‘W' against the Razorbacks.
"They didn't ever seem to ever get into a flow," Lebo said of Arkansas' half court offense. "We mixed defenses and we played more man than I thought we were going to be able to play against them. I thought our double teams on the big guys were pretty good."
Auburn led by seven at halftime thanks to a Quantez Robertson tip in at the buzzer and it maintained that advantage until the final whistle. The Tigers had opportunities to crumble, as they have done in recent games, with Arkansas pulling to within four several times and even as close as three with 1:28 remaining. Auburn kept its composure and hit 8-10 free throws in the final minute and a half to pull out the win.
"The kids have worked hard and we found a way to win, which was nice to get off the snide," Lebo noted. "I don't know what the other people in the league did but despite all of this before the game we were only two games out."
Auburn and Arkansas split the season series and are both two games out of first place in the West at 5-8 behind Ole Miss and Mississippi State, who were winners on Wednesday night. Alabama dropped an overtime decision to Tennessee and is 6-7 in SEC play.
Dollard getting physical with Steven Hill.
With Rasheem Barrett and Quan Prowell struggling on the offensive end of the court for the Tigers, Lebo went with DeWayne Reed as a starter at the point and Robertson at the shooting guard. Auburn has run out of that combo just small portion of the time throughout the season, but Reed logged 26 minutes at the point and Robertson played a total of 37.
"Starting doesn't mean a lot to me," Lebo explained, "but we decided to start DeWayne in this game for no real reason. They've played some together in the last couple of games. Actually when we've split up practices, those two playing together have been pretty good. Tez did a great job on (Patrick) Beverley and when he's at the two he can get to the offensive glass a little bit. He had some key offensive rebounds, especially at the end of the first half."
Beverley, an athletic freshman guard for the Razorbacks, was his team's leading scorer with 16 points, but he made just 6-16 shots. Two of those were breakaway dunks.
Josh Dollard had a solid all-around game for the Tigers with 18 points and he played tough inside defensively against Charles Thomas, Steven Hill and Darian Townes. However, Dollard was not credited with a single rebound.
"Coach Lebo said if you box out you may not getting the rebound, but just as long as your man doesn't get the rebound then it's okay," Dollard said. "We came out on top and outrebounded them so it really doesn't matter."
Tolbert had a quiet 18 points on 5-9 shooting from the floor. Auburn made just 4-19 threes, but Tolbert was 2-4 from behind the arch. Arkansas was just 3-18 from long range.
"I knew we could do it," Tolbert said. "It's just the fact that you have to box out. It doesn't matter your size. If you box somebody out there is nothing really they can do about it. They can either go over your back or go on down court. We've been stressing about that the last week in practice and the last game. We finally did it tonight. We did a little bit in the Georgia game but we did it as a team tonight."
Prowell and Barrett continued their struggle against the Razorbacks. Prowell had three points, all from the line, and Barrett had zero points on 0-5 shooting.
The Tigers' next game is Saturday at Alabama.
"I can't even explain how important it is," Dollard said of the win. "Arkansas is a good team. They beat us in Arkansas and we really wanted our revenge on them. We lost four straight so its kind of got the monkey off our back a little bit. We need to stay focused, come back tomorrow and have a good practice and do the job again against for Alabama."