Cold shooting in the first half, missed free throws in the second half, and turnovers at inopportune times doomed Vanderbilt (13-3, 2-3 SEC) to its third loss in its last four outings, and its 12th consecutive SEC road loss. Arkansas improved to 10-7, 2-4.
With just three minutes to play Arkansas led 58-56, and with the two teams exchanging leads throughout most of the second half, it appeared to be anybody's ball game. But after a missed Matt Freije free throw, Modica buried a 3 from the wing to spark the Razorbacks on a 12-3 run. Before a rowdy partisan crowd, the Commodores seemed to come unglued and couldn't buy a basket from inside or outside, and committed two costly turnovers in the game's critical stretch.
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings was disturbed by a number of factors in the postgame, including the Commodores' 17 turnovers, their nine missed free throws, and their inability to defend the Razorbacks' slashing scorers in the lane.
"We didn't defend effectively, and we didn't control penetration," Stallings said.
Sent to the free-throw line by Vanderbilt's desperation fouls, Arkansas made 7-of-8 in the final two minutes and finished 16-of-19 from the line. Vanderbilt's poor free-throw shooting in the second half (9-of-18) was a big reason the Commodores weren't in position to win the game down the stretch.
Freije finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds to lead the Commodores in both categories. Mario Moore added 17 points, but no other Commodore broke into double figures. Vandy out-rebounded the smaller but quicker Razorbacks, but committed 17 turnovers to Arkansas' 12.
"When you have 17 turnovers, and miss nine free throws, and you let them shoot 54% in the second half, those are too many things to overcome," said Stallings. "You're just not going to have success on the road if that's the case."
Both teams struggled to get into their offenses early. Freshman Dan Cage came off the bench to bury two early 3-pointers against the Arkansas zone defense to push Vanderbilt to a 15-7 lead midway through the first half. But the Commodores inexplicably went ice-cold from the field the rest of the half.
Effectively utilizing its transition game and exploiting its quickness advantage, Arkansas pulled off a 14-0 run and burst to a 25-22 halftime lead. The Commodores' halftime shooting stats were dreadful-- 7-of-26 from the field for a frigid 27 percent.
"We tried to pick up the tempo and go at them a little faster [early in the second half]," Stallings said.
The game seesawed back and forth, with Freije and Moore warming up for Vandy, and sensational freshman Ronnie Brewer doing most of the damage for the Razorbacks.
Vanderbilt took a 51-49 lead when Jason Holwerda found Freije for an alley-oop pass with just under six minutes left. But Arkansas would tie the game on a drive by Brewer, and take the lead for good at 53-51 on a Matt Jones dunk.
Freije's free throw with 2:56 left cut the Hogs' lead to 58-56. But the Commodores would score only three more points (on a Freije trey) the rest of the game, excluding a meaningless three from Moore with one second left.
Arkansas junior Michael Jones, averaging just 2.3 points per game entering the contest, exploded for 18 points, 11 in the second half.
After opening the season with the best start in school history (12-0), the Commodores have now lost three of their last four games with all three losses coming on the road.
Vanderbilt (13-3, 2-3) returns home this week for a pair of games vs. Top 25 teams. No. 25 South Carolina (16-2, 3-1) comes to Memorial Gymnasium on Wednesday (7 p.m. CT), while the Commodores rematch against No. 9 Kentucky (11-2, 3-1) on Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN2).
Vanderbilt's has not won at Fayetteville since 1996. Kevin Stallings' record at Bud Walton Arena fell to 0-3.
With Matt Freije's 3-pointer with 15:11 left in the first half, Vanderbilt's consecutive-games streak with a 3-pointer increased to 549 games.
The Jefferson-Pilot announcers for the regional telecast were former Vanderbilt play-by-play announcer Charlie McAlexander and former Commodore player Barry Booker.
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