FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas guard BJ Young didn’t have much success on his first and second attempts to win the game Wednesday night, coming up without any points on hard drives to the basket at the end of regulation and the first overtime.
So Young tried something else during the final minute of the second overtime.
The sophomore pulled up from behind the 3-point line. And it went in.
Young’s 3-pointer was the critical basket in Arkansas’ 88-80 win in two overtimes in front of an announced crowd of 13,404 in Bud Walton Arena. It gave the Razorbacks some much-needed breathing room in what had been a back-and-forth game between Arkansas and Auburn, which had won three straight games.
It proved to be enough to help Arkansas (11-5, 2-1 in Southeastern Conference) outlast Auburn (8-8, 2-1) to win its second straight league game and fifth in a row over the Tigers. The Razorbacks breathed a sigh of relief when it was over, enjoying the program’s first double-overtime game since a 100-97 win at Texas A&M in 1987.
“You typically say you have to fight for 40 minutes. It took 50 minutes (Wednesday),” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “I was proud of our guys because they showed a lot of resolve. Auburn wouldn’t go away, but we wouldn’t go away. In the end, I guess we made enough to plays to find a way to win.”
It certainly wasn’t easy for an Arkansas team that built an 11-point lead in the first half, had a three-point lead with 25 seconds left in regulation, and the ball in Young’s hands for the final possession in the first overtime period. None of the three scenarios resulted in a win after 40 or 45 minutes Wednesday night.
It only happened after Powell (28 points) and Young (22 points) powered the final push in the second overtime. Powell, who went 11-for-20 from the field and also grabbed 11 rebounds, opened the second overtime period with a jumper to give Arkansas a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Young made sure it stood up when he made his second 3-pointer of the game to make it 84-78 with 26 seconds left.
“He took a shot and he hit it,” Powell said. “A big-time shot.”
It helped the Razorbacks overcame an impressive second half from Auburn, which fell behind by as much as 11 points in the first half and trailed 34-27 at halftime.
Seniors Frankie Sullivan (26 points) and Rob Chubb (12 points, 11 rebounds) led the Tigers back with an impressive inside-outside performance.
Sullivan, who had three points at halftime, was red-hot behind the 3-point line in the second half. His back-to-back 3-pointers gave Arkansas a 54-51 lead. Chubb contributed inside and his dunk gave Auburn it’s biggest lead at 61-55 with 8:20 left.
“That’s when the seniors and veteran players have got to step up and we didn’t,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said about his team’s late-game struggles.
Arkansas battled back to tie the game behind Young, Powell and a defense that finally got stops. Powell’s 3-pointer gave Arkansas a 66-64 lead. He also forced a turnover in the final seconds that led to two free throws by Mardracus Wade.
The junior, who was benched in the second half against Vanderbilt, missed both attempts with 25.9 seconds left. Auburn took advantage with a game-tying 3-pointer from forward Allen Payne with five seconds left to force the first overtime.
“They would not go away,” Anderson said. That’s the sign of a team that’s really playing some good basketball. Maturity. Veterans. They’re veteran guys made plays.”
Wade — who finished with 12 points in 35 minutes — made up for the misses early in overtime. He gave Arkansas the lead by going 2-for-2 at the stripe and made a 3-pointer to give the Razorbacks a 72-70 lead with two minutes left.
But, once again, Arkansas couldn’t close out the win just yet. Auburn hung around after falling behind by four points thanks to a 3-pointer from Noel Johnson. Sullivan gave his team a late lead, too, with a bucket that made it 75-74.
Wade could only manage 1 of 2 free throws with 35 seconds left to tie the game, eventually leading to Young’s missed opportunity in the final seconds. The guard tried to take the ball to the basket, but was stuffed by three defenders.
“The shot that went up with five seconds, the defense collapses,” Anderson said. “He’ll learn. You’ve got to be able to trust your teammates.”
But in the end, though, Young and the rest of the Razorbacks made the plays that mattered down the stretch to wrap up the win.
Arkansas shot 45.5 percent (30-for-66) from the field and 60.6 percent (20-for-33) from the free-throw line. The Hogs forced 19 turnovers and turned them into 20 points. And the key stat: Arkansas committed eight turnovers in 50 minutes.
“It was a tough game,” said Barbee, whose team shot 50 percent from the field (31 of 62) but just 41.2 percent (7 of 17) from the free-throw line. “We talk about in league play just giving ourselves an opportunity on the road. You’ve got to take care of home court. That’s what Arkansas did (Wednesday night).”
Young and Powell both logged loads of time for the Razorbacks in the win, staying on the court for 47 and 44 minutes respectively. It was much needed, though, for a team that had to scratch, battle and claw to emerge with a much-needed home win.
“It felt real good,” Powell said. “Auburn is very, very tough. I’m just glad we pulled it out. … But I’m tired man. I’m real tired.”