The look on Arkansas coach John Pelphrey’s face after the game Wednesday night said it all.
After a 2-5 start, multiple suspensions, and injuries to key players to start the season, Pelphrey looked ready to chest bump every one of the 10,000 + fans on hand at Bud Walton Arena after Arkansas won its fifth straight game, handing previously undefeated Missouri State its first loss of the season 66-62 in overtime.
Rotnei Clarke came up huge for the Hogs down the stretch, scoring the Razorbacks’ last 12 points of the game, and finished with 19 points to lead the Hogs to victory.
Arkansas jumped out to an early lead against the Bears, who came into the game on a 10-game winning streak. Arkansas led by 7 points before the Bears went on a 14-0 run in the middle of the first half to take a 21-14 lead. Arkansas responded with a 15-6 run of their own, and were up at the break 29-27.
Arkansas led by as many as 11 in the second half, but Missouri State battled back to tie the game at 47 with 5:32 left in regulation on a three-point basket by Kyle Weems.
And then Rotnei Clarke got it going for the Hogs. With the game tied at 54 and under two minutes remaining, Clarke tuned the ball over. He proceeded to steal the ball back from Missouri State, pump faked a defender in the air, and made a three-pointer to put the Hogs up by 3. Missouri State answered with a three-pointer, and Clarke scored another basket on a 12-foot jumper with four seconds left to put the Hogs ahead by two.
A defensive breakdown by the Hogs allowed Missouri State to tie the game 59-59 on a layup by the Bears’ Caleb Patterson as time expired in regulation.
Clarke scored all seven of Arkansas’ points in overtime, including a three-point basket with 18 seconds left, and the celebration was on at Bud Walton Arena.
“Obviously, we feel very fortunate to win. It was an outstanding basketball team we played,” Pelphrey said after the game.
Clarke’s heroics in the final moments were huge for the Hogs, but Arkansas freshmen forwards Marshawn Powell and Glenn Bryant also came up big against Missouri State.
Powell scored 17 points, and grabbed seven rebounds for the Hogs, while Bryant scored five points, pulled down 11 rebounds, and blocked two shots against the Bears. Bryant’s play on defense energized the Hogs on several occasions, and the spark he provided was one of the keys to the victory.
“I think he won the game for us,” Clarke said of Bryant. “When he came in he brought so much intensity and toughness. He did everything for us. He rebounded and blocked shots. It was huge.”
Weems led Missouri St. with 24 points, and Jermaine Mallett (they had a #15 Mallett, too) added 11 points for the Bears.
Arkansas improved to 7-5 on the year heading into a game against another solid team next week when the Baylor Bears come to Alltel Arena in Little Rock on Dec. 30. The game will be televised by ESPN 2.