It’s already been a wild season for the Arkansas men’s basketball team, and the conference season is only halfway over.
After a 1-3 start in SEC play, Arkansas won their fourth straight game Saturday afternoon, beating Auburn in overtime 82-79. Arkansas improved to 5-3 in conference play and moved into sole possession of first place in the SEC west with the win.
Courtney Fortson led the Hogs with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists, and the sophomore point guard scored 10 of the Razorbacks last 11 points in overtime to seal the victory.
“We’ve been fortunate in this stretch. We’ve been down in every single basketball game, and fortunately for us, we’ve played our best toward the end of the game,” Coach John Pelphrey said after the game.
Arkansas was able to get the win despite losing top inside player Michael Washington for the final eight minutes of the game and the overtime period. Washington was hit in the shin with 8:09 to play, and did not return.
“We’ve been dealing with adversity all year,” Fortson said of losing Washington. “As long as we stick together, anything can happen.”
Freshman forward Marshawn Powell filled in at center, and Arkansas went with a four-guard lineup down the stretch with Washington out. Powell scored 19 points in the game, with 17 of those points coming after halftime.
Arkansas trailed by three points with 1:07 left to play before Powell was fouled on his way to the basket. Powell converted the layup, and the free throw to tie the game at 65.
Powell also got a steal on the next Auburn possession, and a Fortson layup on Arkansas’ put the Hogs up by two points with 15 seconds left.
Auburn went for the win on their final possession of regulation, but missed on two three point attempts that would have put them ahead before Andre Malone was able to put back the second miss to tie the game with 1.8 seconds left.
Fortson took over in overtime. The sophomore scored 10 points and added two assists resulting in layups for Marshawn Powell which accounted for 14 of the Hogs’ 15 points in the extra period.
Arkansas went up by seven points with 23 seconds left in OT on a driving layup by Fortson, but a pair of Auburn three-pointers by Frankie Sullivan and Tay Waller, missed free throws by Clarke and Fortson, and a costly turnover by Stefan Welsh gave the Tigers a chance to tie the game at the buzzer.
Sullivan’s half-court shot as time expired was on target, but bounced off the back of the iron, and Arkansas was able to escape with the victory.
Arkansas improved to 12-11 heading into the final eight games of the regular season. Next up, LSU comes to Walton Arena on Wednesday for a 7:00 p.m. tipoff. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.
LSU is winless in conference play this year with an 0-9 record, and are coming off an 81-55 loss to Kentucky on Saturday.