Sophomore guard Davonte Davis slammed home a dunk as the horn sounded and students flooded the court Tuesday night after Arkansas’ historic 80-76 upset over the No. 1 Auburn Tigers in front of a record 20,327 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
“This is really big for the state,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said in the postgame press conference. “All eyes were going to be on this game nationally. I am kind of speechless about the crowd. The student section, insane. You can go to college basketball games all over the country for the next 50 years (and) there is not going to be a crowd better than that.”
Auburn got out to an early 9-5 lead, but the Razorback defense reeled them in and the Hogs quickly gained a 12-11 lead with 12:10 on the clock following two Tiger turnovers.
The Hogs remained aggressive and got out to a 23-13 lead at the 8:29 mark of the first half. The Tigers began to slow the pace as much as possible, and the Hogs’ offense ground to a halt. Arkansas did not hit one field goal after the 8:29 mark in the first half.
Auburn chiseled its way back into the game, but despite its offensive lull, Arkansas went into halftime ahead 28-25.
The Tigers came out of the locker room and hit their opening attempt, followed by a free throw, to tie the game at 28.
The two teams went back and forth for the whole second half after the gridlock. Auburn eventually got some minor breathing room, going up 64-59 with 2:40 left in the game.
Arkansas clawed its way back with five straight points of its own, tying the game at 64-64 with just 54 seconds on the clock. A pair of tough layups from both teams tied the game at 66-66 and sent the contest into overtime.
Auburn opened the overtime scoring with a layup at the 3:52 mark. Senior guard JD Notae responded with a 3-pointer to put Arkansas up 69-68, but the Tigers came right back down to convert a layup and retake the lead.
The Hogs hit six straight free throws to take a 78-73 lead with 27 seconds left. Auburn made a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch, but Arkansas hit its free throws to ice the upset and solidify the Razorbacks’ ninth straight win.
“It’s a great feeling,” sophomore forward Jaylin Williams said. “We’re going to be remembered for the rest of Arkansas history. Everybody counted us out when we were 3-0 in conference. We knew what we could do. The best part of it is nobody believed in us, but we proved people wrong.”
In a game that featured 17 lead changes and 15 ties, free throws and turnovers made the difference. Arkansas forced 19 turnovers and converted 24 points off those. Arkansas shot 81% from the foul line, while the Tigers only shot 47% amid the pressure from a white-hot crowd at Bud Walton.
Notae excelled, recording 28 points, four blocks and four steals. He did not seem to have his jump shot working as well as normal, but he hunted for mismatches on offense and attacked the rim, drawing fouls or making tough layups.
“Just being aggressive,” Notae said. “Staying true to who I am, not being afraid to go down there with the big dogs. I played against them when I was growing up, so it’s just another day for me.”
Davis has been a more defensively oriented player this season, but he came off the bench and gave the Razorbacks 10 points in big spots. The offense looked stagnant and tired in the second half, and his back-to-back 3-pointers breathed life back into it. He led the team with a plus-15 margin when he was on the court.
Williams continued to be the heart and soul of the Razorback squad. Auburn’s Walker Kessler offered his toughest matchup of the season, and although Williams allowed Kessler 16 points and 19 rebounds, he still came up big. He hit the game-tying shot at the end of regulation, drew three charges and tacked on 11 rebounds.
Arkansas will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide at11 a.m. Saturday Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.
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