“It was a tough game,” said Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith, after watching his team squander yet another last-minute lead. “I thought we had the game in control to win the game. There were just a lot of things that didn’t go our way at the end. It was a tough game.”
Once again, Phil Pressey and Missouri failed to close out a game in which the Tigers led in the final minute.
With 0:34 remaining in the game, Missouri’s Keion Bell sank 2 free throws to extend Missouri’s lead to 70-66.
But on the other end, Bell and the Tigers seemed to forget to play defense, as Arkansas’ 6’3” 180-pound sophomore guard B.J. Young drove to the basket on successive possessions, twice completing conventional three-point plays for the Razorbacks, and sending Bell to the bench with a game-high 25 points, and his fifth foul.
Missouri had the ball near mid-court, trailing by 1, but Pressey lost the basketball, and Missouri was forced to foul Young again. Yet, again, Missouri had the basketball, trailing by 2, but Pressey’s hurried pass ahead to Jabari Brown was high, which threw off the timing of the sophomore’s last-second 3-PT attempt.
For Arkansas, 6’7” 240-pound junior forward Marshawn Powell led the way with 24 points, while Young scored 18 points for the Razorbacks.
Earnest Ross scored 16 points for the Tigers.
Missouri began the game playing pretty good defense, which was keyed by getting the ball inside on the offensive end. Phil Pressey found Laurence Bowers on the break, and Missouri led 9-3, with 14:44 remaining in the first half.
Arkansas had substituted with a smaller line-up, and the Razorbacks were applying full court pressure. Arkansas Head Coach Mike Anderson had 5’10” 162-pound junior guard Kikko Haydar check into the game. Haydar harassed and frustrated Pressey and the Tigers, who seemed to be struggling to keep their composure under Haydar’s defensive pressure. Arkansas cut Missouri’s lead to 12-8, with 11:59 remaining in the first half.
Coach Anderson had re-inserted Powell, and the Razorbacks had backed off of their full-court pressure, although they were still applying pressure in the half-court. Phil Pressey was on the bench for Missouri, and Keion Bell got to the rim for a conventional three-point play. Missouri led 21-15, with 7:40 remaining in the half.
Arkansas was getting the basketball to Powell in their half-court offense, and he was proving himself quite capable. In addition, the Tigers had been slow to close out on some wide-open three-point shooters. Arkansas had cut Missouri’s lead to 26-25, with 3:50 remaining in the first half.
Bowers missed a little short jumper in front of the basket, and Young raced back down court with the basketball. Phil Pressey also raced back and set up in the lane to draw the charge on Young. Then, under pressure in the back-court, Pressey found Earnest Ross thirty feet ahead for a lay-up. But the Tigers were still leaving the Razorbacks open at the three-point line, and 6’7” 225-pound junior forward Coty Clarke was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in the first half.
Still, Missouri took a 33-29 lead into the locker room at halftime. Missouri had won the first-half battle of the boards, out-rebounding the Hogs 28-16 in the first half. Missouri had outscored Arkansas 14-10 in the paint, a 4-point margin, which was also the difference on the halftime scoreboard. In the first half, the game had been played at Arkansas’ pace, and neither team had shot the basketball very well, except for Clarke’s wide-open threes.
Arkansas opened the second half by repeatedly going to Powell in their half-court offense. He scored from everywhere, and no Missouri player could guard him. Bowers went to the bench with 3 fouls, and Oriakhi had 3 fouls. Powell had 9 second-half points before the first media timeout, and Arkansas had taken a 41-39 lead, with 15:34 remaining in the game.
Haydar was back in the game, and Missouri left him wide open for a three. Haydar was winning on the defensive end too, as he harassed Pressey and Brown into mental errors. Brown and Pressey were being sped up by the defensive pressure, and they were not making good decisions with the basketball, or they were simply hurrying their shots. Arkansas led 49-44, with 11:44 remaining in the game.
Phil Pressey was trying to do too much on his own, and he was playing right into Arkansas’ hands. Pressey was dominating the basketball, and his teammates were standing around watching him hog the basketball. On the defensive end, Keion Bell made a couple of mental mistakes, and the Razorbacks made him pay. Arkansas continued to lead 59-53, with 7:17 remaining.
Coming out of the timeout, Pressey began to share the basketball, and immediately good things started to happen for Missouri. Bowers and Oriakhi were each on the bench with 4 fouls, and Missouri was going with Tony Criswell and Ross up front. Missouri was playing better defensively, and they were moving the ball on offense. Brown found Ross in the corner for a three to tie the score. Then, Criswell traveled on a cut to the basket, and the two teams went to the final media timeout tied at 63-63, with 3:15 remaining.
From there, Missouri fought hard and grabbed a lead. But an all-too-familiar circumstance prevailed, as the Tigers once again failed to execute on either end of the court in the game’s final seconds.