FAYETTEVILLE - Given his stat line Tuesday night at Tennessee, Arkansas guard Daryl Macon appeared victimized by his own foul play.
The Razorbacks junior college transfer and Little Rock Parkview alum hit but one of six shots, albeit an out of area code range 3-pointer, from the field and turned it over three times.
But it was Tennessee’s Volunteers, not Mason, victimized by Mason’s foul play. Macon sank 12 of 13 foul shots, including eight of eight in the final 1:31 enabling the Razorback to prevail, 82-78 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., and even their SEC record to 1-1 going into Saturday night’s game at nationally No. 6 SEC reigning co-champion Kentucky.
"Just think about it," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said postgame on radio Tuesday in Knoxville. "This guy makes one 3-point shot, probably from 30-feet out, and he ends up with 15 points. He didn’t start the second half but he came up big for our basketball team."
Fellow junior college transfer guard Jaylen Barford, also huge for Arkansas scoring 14 points against Tennessee after a nightmare two-point night last Thursday in the Razorbacks’ SEC season-opening 81-72 loss against Florida at Walton Arena, was asked if Macon’s free throw shooting surprised him.
"No," Barford said. "Didn’t he miss one? I was surprised he missed that one. He was on a free throw streak so I knew he was going to knock those free throws down."
Macon’s incredible 58 of 64 free throws for .906 percent, leads an incredible . 775 percent (272 off 351) Razorbacks team free-throw percentage including four making .800 percent or better with guards Dusty Hannahs, 44 of 49, and Anton Beard, 32 of 40, and forward Arlando Cook, 14 of 17, right behind Macon.
Macon’s free throws culminated Arkansas’ victory that opened with the Razorbacks down 13 during the first half, rallying with an 11-0 run to cut the Tennessee lead to 39-37 at intermission then surpassing and staving off through the finish coach Rick Barnes’ undersized but determined Vols.
"Let’s give credit to Rick Barnes and his team," Anderson said. "They would not go away."
Neither would the Razorbacks after trailing by 13 during the first half.
"I love winning," Barford said. "So losing on my mind just kills me sometimes, especially that Florida loss. I think this win helped us out a whole lot and is going to help us out in the long run."
What were they thinking when Tennessee ran them over?
"Turn it on," Barford said. "Turn it on and stay on the gas pedal and just keep playing the game."
A game that Anderson knew his Hogs must play with a vengeance.
"We are coming off an early conference loss at home and we feel like we let one go," Anderson said before the Razorbacks left for Knoxville. "Now we have the opportunity to go on the road and steal one."
Arkansas stole it on defense from its shortest guard to its tallest center. Beard, the 6-0 junior guard and North Little Rock High alum, had a big steal late in the game, and 6-10 center Moses Kingsley knocked the ball loose from Tennessee near Arkansas’ basket for Macnon to fast break and be fouled securing the insurmountably late 4-point lead.
"How about Anton Beard?" Anderson asserted. "I mean he gets hit on the shoulder a little bit and it’s sore and he comes out and probably makes one of the biggest steals going down the stretch. I thought the knockout when Moses knocked the ball out was a big, big play that enabled us to get to four points ahead."
The stops the Razorbacks couldn’t make against No. 25 Florida in Fayetteville they made against the Vols in Knoxville.
"Our defense showed up tonight," Anderson said. "They ended up shooting 39 percent and the 3-point line we did a much better job of defending."
Especially after getting up from being knocked down in the first round.
"Our guys survived the wave and we just found a way to win." Anderson said. "We were down 13 and we found a group that really had it going on. My guys showed me something. Something we can build on and we have got to build on it to get better."
Of course they’ll probably need to be close to 100 percent better to beat Kentucky. The Wildcats Tuesday night in their SEC opener at Lexington,, Ky. routed Texas A&M, 100-58.
Bring ‘em on, says Barford.
"We think we can play anybody in the country, honestly," Barford said. "The Kentucky game is probably going to be one of the biggest games of the year."