FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said his decision to give junior Michael Jones his first start of the year on Saturday against No. 22 Vanderbilt was a whim. Jones made that decision look very good with a career-high tying performance as the Razorbacks knocked off the Commodores, 70-62, Saturday in Bud Walton Arena.
Jones scored a career-high matching 18 points and added a season-high seven rebounds, and was automatic down the stretch at the free-throw line as the Hogs held on for the win.
Ronnie Brewer and Jonathon Modica scored 21 points each as Arkansas improved to 10-7 overall and 2-4 in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt dropped to 13-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC.
Brewer, Modica and Jones combined for 60 of Arkansas’ 70 points, helping the Razorbacks beat a ranked team for the first time in three tries this season and top last year’s season win total of nine.
Three free throws by Brewer, who was six-of-six at the line, gave UA a 28-22 lead with 19:16 to play, but Julian Terrell scored on a layup and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but Vanderbilt got the rebound and Matt Freije canned a three to get the Commodores within 28-27.
A three by Mario Moore and a layup by Freije gave Vandy a 34-30 lead, and a tip-in by Freije with 9:20 remaining put VU ahead 45-42.
A jumper by Matt Jones, who had four points and a career-high six rebounds, and two free throws by Brewer gave Arkansas a one-point lead, but Freije, who had 14 of his 19 points in the second half, drained a three to give Vanderbilt a 49-48 lead.
Modica, who had his highest-scoring game since getting 28 points in the win at Tulsa on Dec. 30, answered with a three, but Freije made a free throw and then a dunk to give Vanderbilt its last lead at 51-49 with 6:59 remaining.
Brewer scored on a layup, Matt Jones made a dunk and Michael Jones hit a three for a 56-51 lead with 4:54 remaining.
Two free throws by Jason Holwerda and another by Freije cut the margin to 58-56, but Modica hit another three for a five-point lead at the 2:43 mark. Modica scored on a layup with 1:06 left for a 63-56 lead and UA made seven-of-eight free throws, including six-of-six by Jones, the rest of the way to seal the win.
Arkansas shot 46 percent for the game and held Vanderbilt to 37.7 percent shooting, including just 26.9 percent in the first half. Vanderbilt had a 35-29 rebounding advantage, but was 13-of-22 at the line while the Razorbacks were 16-of-19. UA also had 14 assists and 12 turnovers while the Commodores had 12 and 17, respectively.
Moore finished with 17 points for Vanderbilt.
Arkansas is off Wednesday but plays Saturday at Georgia at 4 p.m. (central) in a game televised by SEC-TV, which is on Fox Sports Southwest in Arkansas.