FAYETTEVILLE – Mike Washington scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Arkansas men’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon, but despite a valiant effort by the Razorbacks, the Hogs dropped the regular season finale at Bud Walton Arena, 68-66.
Arkansas (14-17, 7-9 SEC) finishes third in the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division. The Razorbacks will play Georgia in the first round of the SEC Championship Tournament next week. Ole Miss (21-9, 9-7 SEC) grabbed its first lead with 53 seconds to play and held on for the victory.
"It certainly didn’t end the way that we wanted it to," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "It was a tough day and Ole Miss kept playing. I thought that things went against us the final three minutes of the game. We could have easily won, but Ole Miss did a good job defending Marshawn [Powell], Mike [Washington] and Courtney [Fortson]."
Arkansas opened the game by hitting a pair of three-point baskets and took an early six-point lead. Ole Miss would recover from early turnovers to come back to 10-9 and eventually tie the game at 12. Arkansas’ response to the tie was swift and dominant as it scored the next nine points and 20 of the next 26 to go ahead 32-18 with six minutes to play in the opening half.
Ole Miss would cut in to the Arkansas lead with a 12-4 run and make it a six-point contest in the closing moments, but a pair of Arkansas field goals to end the half allowed the Razorbacks to walk into the locker room with a 10-point, 43-33 lead.
Arkansas failed to score a basket for more than three minutes to open the second half of play allowing Ole Miss to go on an 8-0 run and cut the Arkansas lead to two. Julysses Nobles ended the Razorback drought with a driving layup down the baseline and precipitated an Arkansas rally that gave the Hogs 11 of the next 13 points over a three-minute span and give the Razorbacks another 11-point lead.
Ole Miss would start to rely heavily on the three-point basket, but Arkansas was up to the challenge, keeping the Rebels behind by eight or more for most of the period. As the clock ticked down to the three-minute mark, Ole Miss would score back-to-back buckets to cut the score to 65-61. Following a missed free throw, a scramble ended up in the hands of Ole Miss’ Chris Warren who buried his fifth three-point basket of the game and give Ole Miss its first lead of the game.
The Razorbacks had chances to tie the game or take the lead down the stretch, but their shots would not fall and the Rebels escaped with the victory.
Washington ended the regular season with 1,045 career points, 648 career rebounds and 106 blocked shots making him one of five Arkansas players to ever reach such lofty milestones. His point total now ranks him 30th on Arkansas’ all-time scoring charts and he moved into 10 on the rebounding list with his effort on Saturday. Rotnei Clarke led the Razorbacks in scoring with 13 points including three three-point baskets which make him just the second Arkansas player in school history to hit 100 three-point baskets in a season. He is now two away from the school record of 102 which Scotty Thurman hit in 1995.
Along with Clarke’s 13 points, Marcus Britt scored a season high 12 and Nobles hit for 11 to lead the Arkansas attack. Washington led the Razorbacks in rebounds with nine. For the Rebels it was the Chris Warren show he scored 31 points and was one of two Ole Miss players to score in double digits.
The Razorbacks are at the SEC Tournament for their next competition where they will take on Georgia Bulldogs on Thursday, March 11, at 8:45 p.m.