FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Sophomore Rotnei Clarke hit a pair of three-point baskets late but, despite 26 points, Arkansas could not pull out a victory on Tuesday night at Bud Walton Arena, losing to Morgan State, 97-94.
Clarke scored 14 in the opening half and was at 20 heading into the final minute before hitting a pair of three pointers with defenders draped all over him to pull the Razorbacks within one in the final seconds. Reggie Holmes then drained his third and fourth free throws of the final 13 seconds to win the game. Clarke would get a desperation three-point shot off as the buzzer sounded, but it would not fall.
"We need to play better defense," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "That is where we got hurt, not being able to rebound or defend late."
Scoring in the second half was hard to come by as both teams picked up their defensive intensity. Through the first eight minutes of the period, both teams scored a combined 23 points and the Razorbacks continued to hold the lead, although Morgan State did whittle it down to three, 63-60, at the second media time out. Morgan State would tie the game at 63 on a Joe Davis three-pointer, but the Razorbacks would score the next four points and six of eight to jump back out in front.
The slim lead would dissipate quickly as Morgan State took a 69-68 edge with 8:29 to play on a pair of free throws but Clarke would put Arkansas back on top with a pair from the charity stripe as well. Between 8:29 to play and the end of the game, Arkansas and Morgan State would tie or exchange the lead 15 times. A steal by Nobles at half court and ensuing free throw fired up the Bud Walton Arena crowd for the home stretch, but an undeterred Morgan State squad matched the game at 83 for the ninth tie of the contest.
In the end, Morgan State capitalized on 83-percent free throw shooting and 47-percent three-point shooting to pull out a big non-conference win at Bud Walton Arena. Reggie Holmes was the shooting star for the Bears with 34 points, while Joe Davis scored 18. Kevin Thompson of Morgan State led all rebounders with 14.
For Arkansas, Clarke was joined in the 20-point club by senior Mike Washington who had his best offensive game of the young season with 21 points. Freshmen Marshawn Powell and Julysses Nobles each scored 17 for the Razorbacks.
The two teams traded buckets through the opening minutes of the game. Morgan St. held a 9-7 lead and was out rebounding the Hogs at both ends of the court through the first media timeout. Out of the break, Arkansas found its stride and scored the next six points to take a14-9 lead. The Bears would come back to within one, but another Razorback run, this time 15-5 over 3:21 on the clock gave Arkansas an 11-point lead. The second run was fueled by Clarke who scored nine points on two three-point baskets and a more traditional three-point play with a drive to the bucket and foul.
The Bears were able to cut into the Arkansas lead, taking it down to six, but a quick Razorback outburst saw Nobles bury an open three-point basket and following a steal at the midcourt by the Razorback guards, Powell jammed home a fast break dunk to make it a 13-point Arkansas lead. Morgan State would again get back into the contest before the half with solid three-point shooting to make it a 53-47 game at the break.
For the Razorbacks, this is the second game of the season where two or more players have scored 20 or more points and the third time that four Arkansas players scored in double figures.
The Razorbacks are back at Bud Walton Arena for their second game of the Thanksgiving Holiday week on Friday night when they take on East Tennessee State at Bud Walton Arena at 7 p.m. For more information regarding Razorback men’s basketball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.