By Nate Allen
Special to The Globe
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. —
The SEC’s latest neighborhood rivalry began with a bang Saturday.
Before a packed house at Walton Arena, Arkansas and newcomer Missouri waged their first SEC men’s basketball war.
With Arkansas sophomore guard BJ Young of St. Louis scoring the game’s final six points, the Razorbacks of former Missouri coach Mike Anderson edged his old Tigers 73-71.
Missouri’s Jabari Brown fired the game’s final shot off the mark as time expired.
Young’s drive for an old-fashioned three-point play with 19 seconds left fouled out Mizzou’s Keion Bell, the game’s leading scorer with 25 points, and put Arkansas up 72-71.
With 10 seconds left, Arkansas forward Coty Clarke knocked the ball loose from point guard Phil Pressey.
Pressey and forward Laurence Bowers the only Tigers remaining from the Anderson era that ended with former 17-year Arkansas assistant Anderson coming back to Arkansas as head coach last season.
Clarke’s deflection rolled into a scramble and was awarded to Arkansas. Young took the inbounds pass from Ky Madden with 5.3 seconds left and was fouled immediately. He missed the first and made the second.
A time clock malfunction created a Mizzou do-over on the first inbounds with time restored. On the finale, Pressey threw to Brown for the 3 that would have won it.
Arkansas, which visits Columbia, Mo. for a March 5 rematch with Mizzou, advanced to 16-9 overall, 7-5 in the SEC going into Thursday’s SEC game against Georgia. The Tigers (18-7, 7-5) entertain Florida on Tuesday.
“It was a gut check for our basketball team and a game that could go either way,” Anderson said. “Missouri is a very good basketball team. We are very fortunate to win. It went down to the last second.”
Mizzou second-year Coach Frank Haith also praised both teams but showed his displeasure with the game-closing officiating.
“Don’t anyone ask me about the officiating,” Haith said. “I am not getting in trouble today. As far as the game it was a high-level game. I am proud of our guys how hard they fought under the circumstances and they really, really competed.”
Bell and Earnest Ross, Mizzou’s second-leading scorer with 16 points and nine rebounds, both took the defeat stoically but philosophically.
“That’s something you have to be prepared for,” Bell said of the late lead changes. “It’s a game of runs and ups and downs and we had been on a run previously so we had to be prepared for their run. It just didn’t turn out how we wanted it to turn out.”
Ross said, “Tonight was intense like Coach said, it was a high level game. We just went out there and competed and did the best we could.”
The Razorbacks certainly didn’t hit free throws the best they could, 14 of 24 to Mizzou’s 23 of 31. Missouri won the rebounding battle 47-31 with Alex Oriakhi collecting 1. But the Razorbacks prevailed on the play of junior forwards Marshawn Powell and Coty Clarke and sophomore Young.
Clarke rallied the Razorbacks from down 9-0 to trailing just 33-29 in the first half by scoring 12 of his 13 points. He made the big deflection late and his seven boards led the Razorbacks rebidding.
Young struggling early in the first half, obviously was huge down the stretch and finished with 18 points.
“My teammates just kept encouraging me and telling me it wasn’t over,” Young said. “We just stayed together as a team and made plays down the stretch. Marshawn carried us when we needed points and rebounds, and I just tried to close out the game.”
Powell scored 15 of his 24 points in the second half.
“My team tells me all the time, one on one on the block it’s hard to stop me,” Powell said. “So that’s what I went to, and I just tried to grind it out and get points for my team. “
Powell provided Arkansas’ first lead (39-37) with 16:58 left in the game.
That lead peaked at eight but Missouri tied 63-63 on Ross’ jumper at 4:10 and it was either tied or Mizzou ahead until Young’s three-point play.
“He penetrated hard and there was contact there and he finished with contact,” Bell said. “So that was a strong finish.”
And overall, a somewhat bizarre one.
“That was the craziest game I have ever played in if not the craziest,” Young said.