OXFORD, Ms. – Junior Rotnei Clarke led all scorers on Saturday afternoon with 26 points and five three pointers, but the Razorback men’s basketball team dropped their regular season finale to Ole Miss, 84-74, at the Tad Smith Coliseum
The loss for the Razorbacks (18-12, 7-9 SEC) is their second straight and gives them a fourth place finish in the SEC’s Western Division. Arkansas will play a team to be determined later on Thursday in Atlanta, Ga. in the first round of the SEC Tournament. Ole Miss (19-12, 7-9 SEC) locks up the three-see out of the west with the win and will play South Carolina in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday as well.
“I thought we got off to a good start,” said Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey. “Our offense was good and we made more free throws and had less turnovers. They had an amazing night from three and I thought we were there. We battled and came back and I am proud of those guys.”
As it was the final game of the regular season, both teams knew what was at stake and were not hesitant to take big shots and make those big shots. With strong intensity and a fast pace, Arkansas came out of the gates quickly in the first half to go up 7-4 in in the first two and a half minutes, getting a three-pointer from sophomore Julysses Nobles and some inside play from sophomore Marshawn Powell and Clarke. However, that was the last lead the Hogs saw for the rest of the first half.
Ole Miss came out of the first media timeout down only three and then proceeded to start getting unbelievable outside shooting from Chris Warren and Zach Graham. The two Rebel seniors started a three-point shooting frenzy for their team that saw the first six-of-seven three point attempts go in the bucket and put the Rebels out in front 21-13 at the 12:33 mark in the first half. But as many shots as Ole Miss was knocking down, Arkansas continued to keep it close and actually were within seven by the midway point, with a steady dose of inside and efficient shooting.
After a few back and forth possessions and traded buckets, Ole Miss was able to extend their lead to 41-26 with just under five minutes to go in the first half. But the Razorbacks, knowing there was plenty of basketball left, started to whittle away at that Rebel lead and ended the first half on an 11-2 run to pull within six, 43-37. Powell contributed four of those 11 points during the run, and Nobles finished it off with another three-pointer giving the Hogs momentum as the two teams went into the locker room. Nobles led all Razorback scorers at the half with 13 points and was 3-for-4 from behind the three-point line. After Nobles, Powell finished the half with eight points and four rebounds.
It was a very high percentage half for both teams as both the Rebels and Hogs ended the first 20 minutes of play at or above 40 percent shooting. 13 three pointers were made between both teams with Arkansas going 4-for-8 from three-point land.
Coming out in the second half, both teams continued their strong offensive outburst, but it was the Razorbacks, who scored 15 of the first 25 points out of the locker room to cut the six point deficit to only one at the 14:43 mark. Clarke became the Hogs hot shooter during that first run, scoring eight of those 15 points to bring his game total to 16 points with nearly a whole half to play.
After Warren sunk yet another bucket to make it 55-52 Ole Miss, Arkansas called a timeout to regroup and possibly tie the game. However, for the next seven minutes, Arkansas only got three points compared to the Rebels 11, courtesy of continued great three-point shooting from Warren and Graham and Ole Miss, once again, expanded their lead to double digits. Rotnei Clarke tacked on ten more points in those remaining minutes to try and keep his team in the game, but the deficit proved too much to Ole Miss’ amazing shooting as the lead never dropped below ten for the rest of the game.
Clarke ended up as the team’s leading scorer with 26 points and was 5-of-7 from behind the three point line. An added note on Clarke, after his second three-pointer in the first half, Clarke now sits alone as second all-time in Razorback history passing Scotty Thurman in three-pointers made in a career and added on three more in the game to now sit at 271.
The Razorbacks will find out who they play in the first round of the SEC Tournament after tomorrow’s Tennessee-Kentucky game is final. The conference tournament is set to begin on Thursday and run through Sunday. For all information regarding the men’s basketball team, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.