Hogs break open tight game to beat Houston.
FAYETTEVILLE — Though now 7-1, Arkansas achieved its first major victory of the young basketball season. Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks beat former Southwest Conference rival and current American Athletic Conference power Houston, 84-72 Tuesday night at Walton Arena before a possibly conservatively announced 6,678. Arkansas has beaten some qualify mid-major teams so far that advanced to last season’s NCAA Tournament, but coming off a 22-10 season the now 6-2 nationally 3-point shooting leading Cougars are only the second so-called major team that the Razorbacks have played other than a November loss at Minnesota. Arkansas won Tuesday in a major way down the stretch. The Hogs led the final 15:45 of their 50-37 second half once Arkansas center Moses Kingsley inside broke a 43-43 tie. At intermission the Hogs trailed, 35-34 despite once leading by 14. Houston stayed in it that second half never trailing by more than six until a 5:23 to 4:57 stretch when Manny Watkins hit a deuce jumper, hit two free throws after fouled gathering a Houston miss and assisted Dustin Thomas for a basket and 71-62 lead.that Houston never closed past seven thereafter. “The difference I thought in this game was our bench play,” Anderson said. “I thought our bench came in and really made them extend a lot of energy. Give the bench the game ball. That’s a very good Houston team in a well-played game but we were fresher down the stretch.” Considerably fresher for their final run, Razorbacks starting guard Daryl Macon said. ““The way we play is wear and tear and you can tell when the run is coming,” Macon said. “You can look at your opponent and tell that he is tired or he feels like giving up. We saw it in their eyes. That is when the run came.” Houston Coach Kelvin Sampson surmised of Arkansas’ game-clinching 14-3 run: “We had some defensive breakdowns but give Arkansas credit. They hit some tough shots. Two good teams out there.” Sampson said Arkansas’ depth and 39-31 rebounding advantage was enhanced when starting Houston forward and leading rebounder Devin Davis was injured three minutes into the game and did not return. “He's our best inside player,” Sampson said. “ He's a guy that can get 10, 11 rebounds in a game like this because he's 235 pounds and he's athletic. We couldn't lose him. It would have been better to lose one of our guards than him. We needed Davis in that game tonight.” Macon, obviously recovered from his leg injury during Arkansas’ victory Saturday night over Austin Peay (“I feel great, he said) and senior guard Dusty Hannahs off the bench led the Razorbacks with 17 points each. Senior center Moses Kingsley scored 14 with a team-leading nine rebounds, and forward Thomas, 11 points, led Arkansas’ scoring.’ Watkins and junior guard Anton Beard of North Little Rock off the bench both made key plays with the game still on the line down the stretch. “Manuale Watkins had seven rebounds,” Anderson said. “And Anton Beard made his imprint both halves. I think Dusty is playing more relaxed off the bench but I still consider him a starter. He played well tonight.” Houston guard Rob Gray led all scorers with 22 points and Houston guard Damyean Dotson posted the game’s lone double-double, 15 points and a game-leading 10 rebounds while guard Galen Robinson, averaging only 4.6 points entering the game, scored nine first-half points to keep the Cougars ahead of the Hogs and scored 14 for the game while reserve Houston guard Wes Vanbeck scored 10. “Rob Gray, we had no answer for him,”Anderson said. “Dotson he came alive. What impresses me about that team is those guys, Dotson and Robinson, played 39 minutes and they were going just full blast.” But as Anderson said, the Cougars, shooting nearly 46 percent on threes entering the game, only hit 8 of 22 against Arkansas and only 4 of 14 as they tired in the second half. A 12-0 run from 13-11 to 25-11 in the first half inflated Arkansas’ biggest bulge. A three by Arkansas freshman C.J. Jones off the bench, Jones’ assist to Beard for a field goal-and-one 3-point play and a Hannahs three keyed the run completed by Hannahs’ and-one 3-point play at 10:25. During the Razorbacks run backup center Trey Thompson of Madison via Forrest City High blocked two shots within two seconds. Houston retaliated with a 6-0 run. Macon halved the run with a three but the Cougars gained big momentum rescuing themselves with a timeout and Arkansas trapping with four seconds on the shot clock for Robinson to nail a three as the shot clock buzzer sounded. Houston netted its first late halftime lead 31-30 with 1:55 left before intermission and increased it to 35-32 before Hannahs drive to the hole followed by Houston missing the half’s last shot left Houston up, 35-34 until the Hogs ran away with it down the stretch. Arkansas next plays at 4:30 p.m. Saturday hosting North Florida at Walton.