The Razorback men’s basketball team (16-5, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) upset No. 10 Missouri (13-5, 6-5) in overtime, 86-81, Saturday afternoon in Columbia, Missouri.
The victory was the Hogs’ sixth straight conference win and their first road victory against a top-10 team since 2006. They are tied with Louisiana State University for second place in the SEC, behind Alabama.
Mizzou played without senior forward Jeremiah Tilmon, who sat out due to a personal emergency. He had 25 points and 11 rebounds in the previous meeting between the two teams.
“Tilmon is a great player,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said in a postgame press conference. “I think he is one of the best centers in the nation, (so) obviously they missed him.”
Tilmon’s absence allowed sophomore forward Connor Vanover to create mismatches in the post for the Hogs. Vanover was held scoreless on 11 shot attempts against the Tigers in January, but he scored 12 points in Saturday’s competition.
“I was really looking forward to this game,” Vanover said in a postgame press conference. “Not only were they a top-10 team, but I needed some redemption.”
After trailing by four at halftime, the Razorbacks clawed their way into the lead by feeding senior forward Justin Smith. He topped the 1,000 career point total Saturday after a game-high 19 points, including six in overtime to ice the game.
“Offensively, he was great (and) he was aggressive,” Musselman said of Smith’s performance. “That was his best game as a Razorback.
Vanover echoed Musselman’s praise of Smith after the game.
“I think Justin definitely balled out today,” Vanover said. “He was showing all that he is capable of doing from start to finish.”
The victory was in doubt late in overtime after the referees called a goaltending violation on senior guard Jalen Tate to give the Tigers the lead with 20 seconds to go. However, the call was reviewed and promptly reversed to a clean block.
Because the play was blown dead prematurely, Missouri kept control of the ball due to the possession arrow. The Razorbacks forced a turnover off the ensuing inbounds play and freshman guard Moses Moody tacked on two more points at the free throw line.
Musselman hesitated to discuss the officiating decision in the postgame press conference, but he noted the importance of the initial block from Tate.
“I thought the defensive stop was huge,” Musselman said. “For a guard to go up there and block that shot...all of those little intangible winning plays is what he is all about.”
Arkansas will look to win its seventh straight SEC game against the Florida Gators (10-5, 6-4) on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at home in Bud Walton Arena. The competition will be televised on ESPN2 at 6 p.m.
“After every win, you have to take a second and soak in what you just did,” Moody said in a postgame press conference. “And we just beat a top-10 team in their home, so that is a big accomplishment.”