The No. 6 seed Arkansas men’s basketball turned up the defense Thursday night, holding off the No. 11 seed South Carolina Gamecocks 69-64 in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
Arkansas advances to play the No. 3 seed Florida Gators Friday night at approximately 8:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.
The Razorbacks’ defense was big Thursday night, as Arkansas forced 19 South Carolina turnovers, swiping 10 steals, that all led to 19 points off of miscues for the Hogs. Another big key for Arkansas was the Razorbacks’ ability to get to the free throw line and take advantage. The Razorbacks finished 23-of-26 from the free throw line, its best percentage of the season at 88.5 percent.
Arkansas set the tone early with its defense. Despite hitting just one of its first five field goal attempts, the Razorbacks were aggressive on the defensive end and it paid off. In a span of three minutes, Arkansas forced five turnovers, including three steals, leading to six easy points.
After taking the lead, Arkansas never let the Gamecocks reclaim the advantage. USC was able to tie the game at 26-26 with 4:02 left in the first half but from that point, the Razorbacks outscored South Carolina 10-2, all on free throws, to take a 36-28 lead into the locker room. Free throws were the deciding factor in the first period. Arkansas went 14-of-15 (.933) at the charity stripe, while USC went just 2-of-7 (.286).
The Razorbacks came out of the break on an 11-4 run, as four of their first five field goals were layups to stretch the Arkansas lead to 15. After scoring 10 points off of turnovers in the first half, seven of Arkansas’ first 11 points in the second period came off of six USC miscues.
South Carolina would not go away though. Despite being down 15, the Gamecocks would fight back and cut the Arkansas lead to one with 7:22 left to play. Up two, Jaylen Barford hit a ridiculous three as the shot clock was winding down to put the Hogs back up five.
After Barford added a layup on a steal, South Carolina would rattle off five straight to cut the lead to two. Senior guard Daryl Macon would get fouled and hit both of his free throws to stretch the Arkansas lead back to two possessions, where the Razorbacks would hold on and win 69-64. In the final minute and overtime of game this season, Macon is 32-of-33 (.970) from the free throw line and is 62-of-65 in his career (.925).
Barford led Arkansas with 17 points and three steals, while Macon was the only other Razorback to finish in double figures with 12 points, going 8-of-8 from the free throw line, adding four rebounds and four assists.
Anton Beard had a quiet night offensively with just seven points but brought down four rebounds and had a team-high five assists and three steals. Adrio Bailey posted nine points to go along with four rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
• Arkansas has advanced to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in three of the last four years.
• The Razorbacks improve to 25-25 all-time in the SEC Tournament and 3-2 against South Carolina in the tournament.
• Arkansas is 5-6 in the SEC Tournament since the league went away from divisions after the 2010-11 season, with two victories coming in 2015 and two more in 2017.
• During the Mike Anderson era, Arkansas is 124-7 in games it led at the half, including 39 consecutive victories. This year, the Razorbacks have led by an average of 9.8 points at the break in 22 wins.