Keyonte George and No. 17 Baylor keep finding ways to win despite their recent struggles shooting the ball.
The true freshman scored 24 points, including seven in a row down the stretch, and the Bears edged Arkansas 67-64 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday.
Baylor has a six-game winning streak even with its three worst shooting games of the season all coming in the last week.
“We had to gut that one out,” George said. “We preach controlling what you can control. … We played hard, fought hard and got a good home win.”
LJ Cryer had 20 points for the Bears (16-5), who shot a season-low 33.9% (20 of 59) from the field. They offset that by making 21 of 24 free throws, including two by Cryer with 10 seconds left and two by George with 4.3 seconds remaining.
“As a coach, you just want to have good shots,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Our guys really did a great job on the free-throw line, and made tough free throws down the stretch.”
Ricky Council IV scored 25 points for Arkansas (14-7). Davonte Davis had 16 points, but missed the front end of a 1-plus-1 with 2.3 seconds left. The ball got knocked out to Joseph Pinion in the right corner, but the freshman missed wildly on a 3-pointer as time ran out.
“The one thing that you always want from your basketball team is to play as hard as they possibly can,” Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said. “Anybody that was here walked away and saw a great basketball game. I feel for the locker room.”
Baylor fell behind by as many as eight points in the second half after an early 11-point lead. But the Bears closed it out after Flo Thamba made two free throws for a 55-53 lead with 3:37 left.
Then came the strong spurt by George, who made a floater, scored on a strong move inside and then hit a step-back 3-pointer with 1:21 left for a seven-point lead.
“I feel like I’ve proven myself to be able to take those shots in those last couple of minutes,” George said. “Anybody can do it, it was just me tonight.”
The Bears led 19-8 on George’s 3-pointer with 10:36 left in the first half. They then missed 16 of their last 17 shots before halftime.
Arkansas made 11 of 12 shots during that same stretch, and went up 33-27 after a half-ending 11-0 run capped by back-to-back baskets by Davis.
The former Southwest Conference rivals met for the 145th time, but only the fourth since Arkansas left the old SWC for the SEC in 1991. The Bears won the previous meeting 81-72 in the NCAA Elite Eight two seasons ago on their way to the national title.
The Razorbacks were coming off a 60-40 win over LSU, and had righted things with consecutive wins after a four-game losing streak.
The Bears are 8-2 in SEC/Big 12 Challenge games, including 5-0 in Waco. … Baylor shot 37.1% against Kansas on Monday, after winning at Oklahoma last weekend while shooting 36.2%.
Arkansas tied the game at 20 on Council’s shot with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half. George then drove through the lane and collided with 6-foot-10 Makhel Mitchell while making a layup that Musselman thought should have been a charge. Cryer hit two free throws after a technical foul against the coach, and George finished his three-point play for a 25-20 lead.
Both of Arkansas freshman guard Anthony Black’s parents were athletes at Baylor. His mother played soccer for the Bears and his father, Terry Black, averaged 13.4 points and 8.1 rebounds while starting all 60 of his games over two seasons, 1999-2001. Anthony Black finished with seven points and six rebounds.
Arkansas is back in SEC play Tuesday night at home against Texas A&M. Baylor returns to Big 12 play Monday night at 10th-ranked Texas.