FAYETTEVILLE—- It wasn’t Scotty Thurman hitting the shot-clock beating 3-point dagger into Duke securing Arkansas’ irrevocable lead in the 1994 national championship.
But Jaylen Barford’s shot-clock-beating deep 3 with 3:31 left in Thursday’s late night 69-64 SEC Tournament victory over South Carolina accomplished similar results while advancing the Razorbacks into Friday’s late-night SEC Tournament quarterfinals game against the Florida Gators at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Senior guard Barford thrust a second dagger with a steal and layup at 2:52 extending what had been only a 61-59 lead before the trey to 66-59 after the layup.
The dribbling, dribbling, step-back 3 drew immediate postgame questions.
“I guess it was kind of like a H-O-R-S-E shot,” Barford said. “So I used that. I knew it was good when it left my hands. And he sat back a little bit, so I shot while the clock was running down.”
What about the steal and layup?
“They ran the play the whole time.,” Barford said. “So I just kind of played it a little bit. And he didn't see me. It was a big play down the stretch, and we needed that stop. It was good, and we just kept playing defense and knocking down free throws.”
Though only shooting 2 for 10 from the field including 0 for 5 on treys, Arkansas senior guard Daryl Macon iced it hitting the last two of his eight for eight free throws with 39 seconds left to advance Arkansas up 68-64 before Arkansas senior guard Anton Beard’s free throw with 13 seconds left tallied the game’s final point.
Macon and Barford and Barford and Macon have been doing it for Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks throughout this 22-10 season going into Friday night’s game.
Thursday night it was mostly Barford though it appeared he might foul out before the finish.
“First of all, he got his fourth foul with maybe like five minutes to go,” Anderson said. “I think we were leading, and then, of course, they made a run. I figured, you know, it's time to just let him ride it out. So he came in with like 3:59 or 4:59, I don't know. He's supposed to make big plays. He's a tremendous player, and he seized the opportunity."
Anderson stressed the plural. Because a lot of Razorbacks had to overcome a lot of things, including being outrebounded, 42-29, to prevail.
Getting to and capitalizing on the free-throw line, 23 of 26 to South Carolina’s 10 of 16, proved pivotal.
So did the surprising nine points with five of six free throws and four rebounds and three steals by sophomore forward Adrio Bailey, starting in place of dismissed from the team senior Dustin Thomas, and nine off the bench points by freshman swingman Darious Hall, four of five from the field with one of Arkansas four treys and a step.
“They came in, and they played with a lot of energy,” Macon said. “They were critical on the defensive end. So I've got to congratulate those guys on that.”