Four straight first place alone
FAYETTEVILLE – Courtney Fortson scored 10 of his team’s 15 points in overtime Saturday afternoon as the University of Arkansas men’s basketball team beat Auburn, 82-79, at Bud Walton Arena. Fortson finished the contest with 24 points to lead a group of four Razorbacks in double digits.
With the victory, Arkansas (12-11, 5-3 SEC) extends its winning streak to four games and takes sole possession of first place in the SEC West after Mississippi State lost to Florida. Auburn (11-12, 2-6 SEC) also had four players in double digits and hit 12 three-point baskets in the game.
"We are very fortunate to win today," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "Auburn played very well in both halves and I thought that fatigue played a big part. Courtney came up really big in overtime. We are very humbled by where we are in the standings and know that we could have lost each of the last four games."
Fortson also grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds and dished out seven assists to earn his third double-double of the season. Marshawn Powell poured in 19 points for the Razorbacks, while Rotnei Clarke and Stef Welsh added 12 and 11 points, respectively. The tightly contest matchup featured 11 ties and 16 lead changes. The Razorbacks took the final lead of the game with 2:20 remaining in the overtime period with a three-point basket by Fortson.
Auburn came out burying three-point baskets hitting three over the first five minutes of the contest to take an early lead. Thanks to hot shooting from the Tigers, they were able to build a lead of nine points late in the first half which could have been larger had the Razorbacks not been strong on the defensive end.
A late run by the Razorbacks saw them score seven points over 4:50 on the clock and erase a nine-point deficit to make it a one-basket game with just under two minutes to play. Following a flurry of activity over the final moments, the teams would go into the locker rooms with Auburn clinging to a two-point lead, 38-36.
The Razorbacks came out with intensity in the second half and scored 10 of the first 12 points in the half to take a 46-40 lead into the first media timeout. Auburn would rally to score seven of the next eight points and tie the game at 47 with 12:28 to play. The Auburn run led to a back-and-forth battle in the second half which saw Auburn lead by as many as five and Arkansas by six.
As the clock ticked down toward the four minute mark, Powell found Clarke on a cross-court pass with the Razorbacks up by one. Clarke promptly buried his third three-point basket of the game to put the Razorbacks up by four and stir the Bud Walton Arena crowd and force Auburn to call a time out. The stoppage in play worked for the Tigers as they came out of the break and scored five straight points to take a one-point lead under the three-minute mark.
In the closing moments of the game, Arkansas milked the clock to under 10 seconds and let Fortson work his magic off the dribble and hit an acrobatic shot to put the Razorbacks up by two. After a timeout, Auburn went up the court quickly and took two desperation three-point shots only to see Andre Malone grab a short second attempt and lay it in with just over a second to play to tie the game and force overtime.
The extra time saw Powell score the first points on a layup after a great pass to the interior. Auburn countered with a basket of its own and a pair of free throws by the Tigers gave them a two-point lead early. The Razorbacks came back with a five-point run of its own including a Fortson three to give the Hogs a three-point lead.
The Razorbacks are back in action at Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday, February 10, when they take on the LSU Tigers.