The first half was brutal. We made poor decisions and lazy passes resulting in turnovers. We ran a full court man to man press for much of the first half, and Fortson was able to easily dribble around and past Brock creating fast break opportunities for the Razorbacks. Defensively, Arkansas completely took away Torrance's left side, forcing him to go right exclusively. It seemed to take him a while to adjust. We finally started making some shots and catching a few breaks to cut the 13 point lead down to 7, and had the ball with a chance to hold for the last shot of the 1st half. Once again, Torrance turned the ball over at a very bad time. Coach Grant should have used a timeout when he saw Torrance in trouble. In situations where you have the ball with less than 35 seconds remaining in the first half, or in a tie game at the end of a game, there is no excuse for being outscored over the remainder of the half, but it has now happened to us at least 3 times this year. So, we go into the half down 9, and Arkansas starts the 2nd half on a 4-0 run to get the lead right back to 13.
Given the way this year has gone, it would have been easy to throw in the towel against the Western Division front runners. Instead, the team kept scrapping and found a way to get back into the game. It helped that the Hogs were resting Fortson and his 3 fouls. While he can be somewhat of a ballhog, they are an infinitely better team when he is on the court. We were able to make a run with him out of the game, thanks in large part to Hillman getting things started with a 3 and Torrance creating some opportunities off the dribble. The press was much more effective with Fortson on the bench, and we were able to force some turnovers which created offense. Charvez Davis knocked down a 3 to finally tie the game, and JaMychael Green kept us going down the stretch, making big play after big play in the post. After going 1 for 5 at the FT line during a stretch in the first half, we made every one in clutch situations down the stretch. Green and Torrance were 16 of 17 combined from the free throw line. That is how you win close games!
Hopefully this game will give us confidence down the stretch. We did a much better job of communicating on defense in the second half, and Hillman kept Clarke pretty much shut down. Our bigs did a good job of containing their post players. Hines pulled down 7 rebounds, played great defense, and plays as hard as anybody on the court. Still, he looks awkward and ineffective offensively, and I would like to see Justin Knox get a little bit more playing time, as I think he gives us another scoring option when he's in the game.
It was a late arriving crowd of probably 9,000 or so. Not bad considering the previous day's snow probably made it difficult for some to travel from certain parts of the state. I was somewhat disappointed in the student turnout, but again, with classes cancelled on Friday, I would imagine many left town for the 3 day weekend and/or Mardi Gras festivities down in the French Quarter. Up Next, we get a week of rest before travelling to Athens, GA to take on the UGA Bulldogs at Stegeman Coliseum next Saturday, Feb. 20, at 3pm Central time. While UGA's record is not very impressive, much like us they have been very competitive and have some high quality wins under first year coach Mark Fox. Bobbyjack and I will be there representin'.