FAYETTEVILLE — Behind a combined 18 second-half points from junior Julysses Nobles and sophomore Rickey Scott, the University of Arkansas men’s basketball team shook off a slow start to defeat Auburn, 56-53, in Southeastern Conference action Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks improve to 15-5 overall with a 3-2 SEC record, while Auburn drops to 12-8, 2-4 in the league. Arkansas pushed its record to 15-0 at home, tying the second-longest home winning streak to start a season in school history.
"I’m happy with the win," said Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson. "That game was a grinder. There are all kinds of ways to win a game."
After trailing for much of the night, the Razorbacks got scoring in bunches from Nobles and Scott, and took a 42-39 lead on a Scott three-pointer with 8:53 left. The Tigers cut the lead to 52-51 with 2:32 to play, but freshman BJ Young hit a jumper from the top of the key to give the Razorbacks a 54-51 lead. Less than two minutes later, Young got free for a fast-break dunk to push the lead to five, 56-51, with 20 seconds left. Auburn came within three and had a chance at a game-tying three at the buzzer, but the Razorbacks got the stop to hold on for the win.
Arkansas forced 21 Tiger turnovers and had 13 steals, including five by Nobles alone, a total that matched his career high. The Razorbacks needed a strong defensive effort to shake off their coldest first half of the season, but held Auburn to 37.5 percent shooting to trail by just three at the half.
"Our saving grace tonight was our defense," Anderson said. "You’ll have some off nights on offense, but defense can always be there."
In the opening moments of the second half, Nobles helped the Razorbacks quickly forget their first half rust. The junior hit back-to-back three-pointers in the first two minutes, energizing the crowd and establishing an offensive rhythm for his team.
Half way through the second period, Scott took over the offensive reigns. He scored eight straight points in a two-minute stretch to push Arkansas ahead 47-43 with 6:53 remaining, giving the Razorbacks a lead they would not surrender.
Freshman Hunter Mickelson had three blocks for Arkansas, and came up with a key steal with 3:19 to play that led to a Nobles jumper and pushed a two-point lead to four, 52-48. Young led the team with 11 points, and also had four assists, four rebounds and three steals.
"I was happy to see our young guys make plays down the stretch," Anderson said.
Nobles proved to be Arkansas’ floor leader all night, finishing with ten points, five rebounds, four assists and five steals while leading the team with 33 minutes played. Scott tallied eight points, all coming down the stretch. Both players scored all their points in the second half.
Freshman Rashad Madden added ten points for Arkansas, which shot 55.6 percent in its strong second half.
Auburn placed three players in double figures, led by Kenny Gabriel with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Arkansas returns to action Saturday when it travels to Alabama for a 12:30 p.m. contest. For more information about Razorback basketball, please log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Download: Arkansas Game Notes – G20 – Auburn.pdf