FAYETTEVILLE — Jalen Harris absorbed the Missouri offensive foul providing Arkansas’ last chance with 10 seconds left.
But the sophomore point guard couldn’t capitalize in the final seconds with his drive stopped and his pass for center Daniel Gafford deflected, leaving Arkansas without a shot to overcome the Missouri Tigers’ winning 79-78 advantage in Tuesday night’s SEC game at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri.
"We wanted to get a foul or get to the basket, get one of our shooters coming from behind there," Anderson said of the last play. "We just didn't get anything."
At least Harris tried to get it to the right man.
Held to a season-low eight points lost last Saturday’s SEC game, 77-65 to the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina, 6-foot-11 sophomore Gafford erupted for a game-high 26 Tuesday in Columbia, Missouri.
The Hogs, Razorbacks broadcaster Chuck Barrett surmised to Arkansas coach Mike Anderson postgame Tuesday are a different team with Gafford playing an uninhibited 32 minutes in Columbia, Missouri, compared to his foul troubled 22 minutes in Columbia, South Carolina, leaving the Razorbacks without him for 18 minutes.
“Without a doubt,” Anderson said. “I thought even going down the stretch they had no matchup for him. He’s important. Our guys did a really good job trying to find him in there.”
If only they could have found him a couple of times more.
“A couple of times, if we come down and execute it creates a little different spin on the game,” Anderson said. “We had the ball with 10 seconds with the chance to win the game and didn’t get off a shot. It’s about making plays, Chuck, and tonight we didn’t make the play and they made one.”
Both the Razorbacks, 14-10, 5-6 in the SEC, and the Tigers, 12-11, 3-8, suffer a history this season of losing big leads.
In fact, Mizzou jumped Arkansas 17-4 at the outset of the Jan. 23 game at Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
But at the close Arkansas handily prevailed, 72-60.
It was nearly all Missouri leading Tuesday night. Other than 2-0 and 4-2, the Razorbacks trailed all night.
Their largest deficit, down 14, during the 46-36 Mizzou led first half, the Hogs trimmed to two and finally one in the second half but obviously no closer.
So unlike against Mizzou in Fayetteville, in Columbia, the Hogs paid for their sluggish start.
“The start put us in that position but we’ve done that all year long,” Anderson said. “We go down 10, 12, 13 whatever it is, you can erase that. And, I thought our guys did a great job of amping a comeback but we never could quite get over the hump when we were right there at one-point. Even with the ball going down the stretch just couldn’t make the right play at the right time. And give Missouri credit. They came out and I thought they wanted it a lot more than our guys did at the start. Then once our guys realized it’s a game, it was a game.”
Gafford was in the game all game. He scored Arkansas’ first 10 points.
Anderson also praised freshman guard Isaiah Joe, 17 points, and off the bench sophomore forward Gabe Osabuohien and freshman guard Desi Sills.
“I thought we had some guys that gave it everything they had,” Anderson said. “Dan, Isaiah came out and played well. I thought Gabe gave us some great minutes. And Desi, Desi was the difference in turning this game around. It may not show in the stats but I thought his motor and his toughness was very evident. But again, we came up a little short.”
They came up short, Anderson said, because though tightening in the second half, Arkansas’ defense allowed 46 Missouri points in the first half.
And they were plagued both halves by Missouri second-chance points, 21-16 in Mizzou’s favor for the game and the Tigers prevailing, 39-33 on the boards.
“Missouri came out with energy and attacking and making shots,” Anderson said. “Of course, in the second half, they didn’t make as many shots. But the difference in the game, and we are going to look at film is going to be the second-chance points. Offensive rebounds. It was a two-point game and we made a stop and we just couldn’t come up with the rebound. And they made some timely plays. Again the credit. They came out with a sense of urgency. (Jeremiah) Tilmon (the big man with a big 21 points and three shot-blocks) played well for them. (Guard Jordan) Geist (18 points) did a good job of commanding. And they had some guys come off the bench and make some big plays for them.”
The Hogs come home Saturday to Walton Arena trying to heal against the tough Mississippi State Bulldogs, 17-7, 5-6.
Saturday’s tip-off is 7:30 p.m. and televised by the SEC Network.