Calling Arkansas-Georgia a heavyweight slugfest is a disservice to high-quality, well-executed, tit-for-tat bouts. Suggesting it wasn’t interestingly close, however, belies the game’s importance and intrigue in the final moments.
The Hogs and Dogs met Tuesday evening down in Athens. The winner back to .500 in league play while the loser headed into the SEC/Big 12 Challenge weekend in the dumps. Whichever team was in the former category could feel OK about its NCAA Tournament chances. Whichever team in the latter was going to need to improve its fortunes in the second half of the conference season to have that same positivity.
Fitting, then, the teams needed two overtimes to find a winner.
Ultimately, it was Daryl Macon who ensured would be the one to leave with good feelings in a 78-77 Razorbacks win.
The second overtime did have that back-and-forth feel, like an old-school boxing match.
Yante Maten led Georgia with 26 points, including the first bucket of the second overtime to give Georgia the lead. The preseason SEC Player of the Year staked his claim to the same honor after the year’s over, too, by grabbing 15 rebounds, as well.
Daryl Macon, though, was prepared to counter. After nary a point in the first half, Macon came alive in the final half hour. All 22 of his points came in the second half and the two overtimes. His go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:50 left put Arkansas (14-6, 4-4) back ahead by a point.
Then there was Maten again. He drew a foul on Trey Thompson underneath the hoop, went to the line and sank two free throws.
Then Macon with another trey at the 1:45 mark.
Took about 20 seconds, though, for Georgia to get a 3 of its own. With the entire defense collapsed on Maten in the paint, he kicked the ball to the corner and found Jackson. Wide open, the man they call Turtle buried it to put Georgia back ahead by a point, 76-75.
Macon, after a timeout, another 3, back to 78-77.
Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti-like stuff.
Then Georgia finally failed to respond. Maten was fouled on the ensuing Georgia possession but made just one of his two free throws. After Arkansas missed a field goal, Maten had a final shot at a jumper, but an Arkansas player blocked it out of bounds with two ticks left and the Bulldogs were finished.
Macon led with 25 points, all of them after halftime. Jaylen Barford added another 24.
Arkansas almost definitely will keep its stable spot as ‘in’ the NCAA Tournament. The Razorbacks are in every major bracketology. Georgia is among the last eight out in most of those. The loss hurts that.
The win was Arkansas’ first on the road this year.
That’s why the senior guards get the run – and freedom – they do. Without them, Arkansas loses by 20 points.
After appearing so many times in the ‘highlight’ section, Daniel Gafford belongs down here. He did nothing against Georgia. Maten dominated him on both ends. Gafford had zero points on 0 of 3 shooting. He also grabbed just three rebounds. All of that nothing came in 27 minutes, not exactly light minutes.
What’s next for Arkansas?
A short break from conference play for the Razorbacks. Oklahoma State visits Bud Walton Arena on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The same two teams met last year, too, with the Cowboys winning in Stillwater.