Eight overtime free throws by Auburn pushed the Tigers to a thrilling 79-76 overtime victory against Arkansas despite a late comeback by the Razorbacks.
Arkansas shot 25-for-59 from the floor in the contest (42.4%) and recorded 14 steals along with 27 total rebounds. Auburn shot 25-for-57 from the floor (43.9%) and recorded 44 rebounds. The Tigers had 18 turnovers in the game. Free throws proved to be the killer for Arkansas, as the Hogs made only 16-for-26 shots from the line.
“There was a stretch where we weren’t scoring, but we also gave up too many easy baskets,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said. “If we knock down two or three free throws we win the game.”
After two-and-a-half minutes without a true basket from either team, Auburn freshman Isaac Okoro laid in a basket to give the Tigers a 73-70 lead in overtime.
On the next Tiger possession, Razorback junior Mason Jones fouled Auburn senior Danjel Purifoy with 21 seconds remaining, and after Purifoy hit both free throws, most thought the game was over. On the ensuing Razorback possession, Jones converted a three-point play to bring the Auburn lead to just one.
Razorback junior Jalen Harris intentionally fouled Auburn senior Samir Doughty, who nailed both of his free throws to give Auburn a 79-76 lead with 9.8 seconds remaining in overtime.
As time expired, Jones threw up a desperation three that rimmed out and Auburn was victorious by a score of 79-76.
“The game tonight is on me,” Jones said. “I missed five free throws, I was 11-for-16. Good players don’t miss free throws, and I missed five of them. If you put five points on our side, we win the game.”
The second half began with a breakaway steal by Jones, but he was fouled by Doughty as he crossed midcourt, sparking another roar of boos from the crowd. Jones eventually laid in the first basket of the half at the 18:40 mark to bring the game to a 34-34 tie.
A 3-pointer by Jones narrowed the Auburn lead to two at the 13:15 mark, and on the ensuing Razorback possession Harris knocked down two free-throws to tie the game at 48-48.
With 11:34 left in the game, Jones threw up an alley-oop to Razorback senior Adrio Bailey that gave the Hogs the lead and caused the crowd to nearly blow the roof off of Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks carried this momentum over for a 9-2 run that gave Arkansas a 59-50 lead with 9:08 remaining.
The Tigers tied the game at 66-66 on a fast-break layup from senior J’Von McCormick. A steal by Razorback sophomore Desi Sills with 55 seconds remaining gave Arkansas the possession it needed for Jones to tie the game at 69-69 with a free-throw.
Auburn suffered a shot-clock violation with six seconds remaining in the game and Musselman signaled for a timeout. A three by Harris at the buzzer was no good, and the game was sent to overtime tied at 69-69.
Auburn went on a 10-2 run out of the media timeout, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Jones and Sills gave Arkansas a 19-18 lead and sent the Bud Walton Arena crowd into a frenzy.
Through the first 10 minutes of the first half, the Razorbacks were 8 of 13 from the floor (61.5 %) and 5 of 7 from three (71.4 %). Jones had five of Arkansas’ first eight baskets in the game.
Auburn went nearly four minutes without a basket from the floor, but a three from Doughty at the 8:02 mark tied the game at 23-23. After this, Arkansas went on a 7-0 run including a three from Sills that caused the fans in Bud Walton Arena to erupt.
The Tigers went on an 11-0 scoring run after the Hogs took a 30-23 lead with 6:16 remaining in the half. After a scoring drought that lasted 5:30, Jones knocked down two free-throws to narrow the Razorback deficit to two.
A questionable no-call on an attempted layup by Arkansas senior Jeantal Cylla as time expired helped Auburn hold onto their 34-32 lead at halftime. Auburn ended the half on an 11-2 run.
Jones led the Hogs with 40 points and five assists. Sills added 14 points and four steals.
It was announced prior to the game that sophomore guard Isaiah Joe underwent arthroscopic debridement surgery Tuesday due to recurring knee inflammation. Joe, who is averaging 16 points per game, was not present for the game.
“[Joe] seemed like he was in good spirits,” Musselman said. “It’s just going to be a matter of how he feels in his rehab going forward.”
Arkansas will travel to Mizzou Arena to take on the Missouri Tigers (10-11, 2-6 SEC) at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Tigers’ only conference wins on the year came at home against Florida on Jan. 11 and Georgia on Jan 28.