FAYETTEVILLE — What the Razorbacks couldn’t keep in overtime, Moses Moody stole back in regulation.
Moody’s foul-drawing steal off a Justin Smith deflection and subsequent free throws with 12 overtime seconds left put
Arkansas up 84-81. Then Smith’s two Arkansas free throws after Missouri’s Xavier Pinson’s 3-point game tying try fell awry at :03 iced an 86-81 Arkansas SEC victory Saturday over the 10th-ranked Tigers at their Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.
It marked Arkansas’ first road victory over a national Top Ten team since 2006.
“I think it’s a great win anytime you can beat a Top Ten on the road,”Arkansas second-year Coach Eric Musselman said. “Often times you see a team that’s right there on the verge of winning when they’re on the road and the game goes into overtime you see an emotional letdown. You see a team kind of hang their head because it was right there in regulation for us to win. But we just kept talking about, ‘Hey, we’ll be able to score. Let’s just try to get defensive stops, try to keep off the foul line as much as we possibly could.”
Arkansas’ ability to make free throws, a stunning 20 of 23 to Mizzou’s 14 of 21, decided the game.
For Musselman, it marked his Hogs winning a sixth consecutive SEC game, advancing to 16-5 overall/ 8-4 in the SEC going into Tuesday night’s SEC game with Florida at Walton Arena, and avenging a 81-68 loss at Walton to Mizzou on Jan. 2.
Coach Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers, playing without star center Jeremiah Tilmon because of a death in his family, falls to 13-5 overall, 6-5 in the SEC.
Tilmon, 25 points and 11 rebounds on Arkansas at Walton, obviously was missed by Mizzou Saturday just as Arkansas missed then injured forward Smith against Mizzou at Walton.
Smith Saturday posted a team leading 19 points and six rebounds for Arkansas and also dealt three assists and helped Moody make his key steal in OT.
“Justin Smith was absolutely incredible on both sides of the basketball, passing the ball and rebounding the ball, scoring it,” Musselman said.
Arkansas sophomore center Connor Vanover more than concurred.
“I think Justin definitely balled out today” Vanover said. “He was showing all that he’s capable of doing from start to finish, especially in those last minutes he played really well. Since he has come back from injury, he looked like the best that he could be.”
Vanover himself factored mightily.
After a cameo starting first half producing little, the 7-3 center tallied 12 second-half points, including 2 of 4 threes, posted up big inside when Mizzou put a guard on him to limit the threes, and grabbed four boards, blocked two shots and dished two assists.
Moody, 16 points and the big steal, point guard Jalen Tate, 14 points and four assists and a key blocked shot originally called goal-tending until officially reviewed, and Desi Sills, eight points off the bench, were Arkansas significant.
Vanover and Sills, a combined 1 for 21 against Mizzou at Walton, combined for 20 points Saturday.
Pinson, Mizzou’s 1A star Tilmon, played A1 Saturday.
Though he couldn’t convert Mizzou’s last 3-point try, Pinson connected on 5 of 8 treys and tallied a game-leading 23 points even with Musselman scheming to stop him and guard Dru Smith, 15 points, and guard Mark Smith who was stopped cold, 0 for 8 from the field including 0 of 5 treys.
Arkansas’ aim at Mizzou’s top 3-point guns meant benign neglect towards other Tigers.
It almost cost Arkansas.
Mitchell Smith, Mizzou’s Arkansas bred senior from Van Buren starting for Tilmon, hit 2 of 5 threes.
Mizzou reserves Torrence Watson, 3 of 5 treys, and Drew Buggs, 1 of 2 treys, combined for 17 points. Reserve Parker Braun attempted no treys but wrangled inside for the tying 73-73 basket with nine seconds left that achieved overtime.
“We obviously don’t want Pinson to go 5 of 8 or Dru Smith to go 2 of 4,” Musselman said. “But we were going to live with Watson and Buggs and Mitchell Smith’s threes. And then we had to take away the 3-point look because it was hurting us so bad.”
Moody played only nine minutes in Arkansas’ “muddy first half,” as Musselman called its with the Hogs fortunate trailing only, 35-31.
Moody scored Arkansas’ first seven points but sat most of Mizzou’s 35-31 first half tagged with his second foul at 14:33.
Jaylin Williams, the reserve center playing more than Vanover in the first half, three fouls, and Justin Smith, two fouls, also encountered first-half Arkansas foul trouble.
Pinson, his eight points leading Mizzou’s first half, and Mitchell Smith, eventually fouling out, also finished the first half with two fouls each.
Arkansas led 71-66 with 2:54 left in the second half but couldn’t hold the lead which Braun tied.
Hence Musselman’s postgame praise for the Hogs keeping it together in OT knowing they could have won it in regulation.
Both teams held their hearts in their mouths with 18 seconds left in overtime.
A Moody feed to Jacksonville’s Davonte “Devo” Davis had put Arkansas up, 82-81 with :32 left in OT when Tate was controversially called for goaltending Dru Smith’s shot at :18.
Upon lengthy review, it was deemed Tate blocked it cleanly but on the stop in play Mizzou kept the ball with its possession arrow.
Justin Smith deflected from Dru Smith which Moody stole drawing a foul from Braun.
With Moody a perfect 4 for 4 on freebies, Musselman said he immediately was looking to set up the defense and didn’t watch his ace sink them both.