A spectacular night from junior guard Mason Jones, who dropped a career-high 41 points, secured a ninth win for the Arkansas Razorbacks (9-1) over Tulsa (8-3).
The Hogs had not hit the hardwood since their 86-79 overtime loss at Western Kentucky on Dec. 7.
Tulsa came into the game with some momentum after a big win at home against Boise State on Dec. 11.
The Golden Hurricane have been the most common non-conference opponent for Arkansas, as the two teams were meeting for the 61st time in the schools’ histories. It was the first meeting between the two since Jan. 2, 2007, a game in which the Hogs won 68-59.
Bud Walton Arena was packed with 15,589 fans, and they made themselves heard as the Hogs forced two turnovers and nailed a three just over a minute into the game.
“When we make a good play and we get the crowd involved, it just turns it up way more,” Jones said.
After sophomore Isaiah Joe drained a three-pointer to give Arkansas a 6-4 lead, he hustled down the court to block Tulsa’s shot. Joe knocked down three three-point shots in the first five minutes of the game.
Joe and Jones had all of the Razorbacks’ first 16 points. Senior Jimmy Whitt Jr. joined the fun around the 12:30 mark, sinking two-straight jump shots.
Through ten minutes in the first half, Arkansas held Tulsa to 12 points, forced five turnovers, and only allowed the Golden Hurricane to make 35.7% of their shots.
Tulsa had a short stint coming out of a timeout at the 7:37 mark where they scored seven points in a row, but the Hogs did not let up offensively. Arkansas seemed to counter every shot Tulsa made shot with one of its own.
Twelve first-half fouls by Arkansas, including a technical foul by senior Adrio Bailey with 0:35 remaining, helped Tulsa narrow the score at halftime to 50-34.
The Hogs took advantage of seven Golden Hurricane turnovers by recording 22 fast-break points in the first half. Arkansas only had two turnovers of its own and shot 53.1% from the field in the half.
“Valuing the ball is so important,” Razorback head coach Eric Musselman said. “I’d rather take a bad shot (because we) don’t want to turn the ball over.”
Jones recorded 20 points in the first half, Whitt Jr. scored 11 and Joe had nine of his own. Tulsa out-rebounded the Hogs 20-17 in the half, but recorded two assists compared to nine by Arkansas.
Joe was able to get the Hogs their first points of the second half with his fourth three-pointer of the game. Bailey hit his first jumper and dunk of the game on the next two Razorback possessions.
Coming into the game, Tulsa was allowing just 60.9 points per game. Arkansas passed this mark with 15:16 remaining in the game.
The Razorbacks recorded five fouls in the first seven minutes of the second half, and were being out-rebounded 7-2. The Golden Hurricane managed to bring the score to single digits at 68-59 with 11:46 remaining in the game. They had outscored the Hogs 25-18 at this point in the half.
At that point, Jones took over. He converted a three-point play and drained his fourth three-pointer as part of a 10-0 run by himself. With almost eight minutes remaining in the game, Jones surpassed his career high of 31 points.
“He was great all week,” Musselman said. “He was really good defensively tonight, and I thought he did a great job of mixing up perimeter shots.”
That run by Jones allowed Arkansas to pull away from Tulsa for good and take a 81-61 lead over the Golden Hurricane. After that, the Hogs slowed the pace of the game, taking the clock down to nearly zero every possession.
With 3:34 left in the game, Jones lobbed the ball to Bailey for a massive slam-dunk and the fans in Bud Walton Arena erupted. That play sealed the deal and secured the Hogs their ninth win of the season.
Arkansas went on to defeat Tulsa 98-79. The Hogs shot 56.7% from the field and 36.7% from the three in the game. Seven blocks and 12 steals by the Razorbacks proved to be the difference in the game as neither team showed signs of slowing down offensively.
Though Jones scored 41, Joe managed to record 20 points and Whitt Jr. ended with 11. Jones also recorded six rebounds and four assists.
Arkansas will not hit the court again until next Saturday, Dec. 21 against Valparaiso in Simmons Bank Arena in North Little Rock at 7 p.m.