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Smith, Davis’ clutch plays at end salvage narrow win over Auburn

Hogs lead for 37 minutes, but nearly lost it late until big plays on both ends narrowly downs Auburn.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nick Smith Jr., and Davonte Davis teamed up to make three clutch plays inside the final 16 seconds to lead 10th-seed Arkansas to a 76-73 victory over seventh-seed Auburn on Thursday night in the second round of the 2023 SEC Tournament, played at Bridgestone Arena.

Auburn erased a 15-point, second-half deficit to lead by one (73-72) with 41 seconds left. However, Smith answered with a jumper from the right short corner with 16 seconds left to put the Razorbacks back on top.

On the ensuing possession, Davis got a steal and converted both free throws with 12 ticks left for the all-important 3-point lead. Auburn brought the ball down and called timeout with 3.5 seconds left. The Tigers drew up a play for Wendell Green, Jr., but Davis and Smith both contested the shot to force the miss and seal the win.

Smith scored 14 for the Razorbacks, including 12 in the second half, and Davis had seven points while tying his career high with 10 rebounds. Anthony Black led the Hogs with 19 points, adding six rebounds and six assists. Arkansas also had strong performances from its bench as Makhi Mitchell scored 12 points with six rebounds and Jordan Walsh scored 11 points.

Auburn was led by K.D. Johnson’s 20 points off the bench. Allen Flanigan added 15 pints and Johni Broom had 13 points with seven rebounds.

Arkansas will face No. 2 seed Texas A&M in the SEC quarterfinals Friday (Mar. 10) and 6 p.m. The game will be televised on SEC Network.

Nick Smith Jr. (Arkansas Communications)

FIRST HALF: Arkansas 37, Auburn: 33

• Auburn scored first but Arkansas answered with a 10-0 run and led the rest of the first half.

• Arkansas led by as many as 10 (37-27) before Auburn used a 6-0 run to close the half and make the score 37-33.

• Arkansas dominated the boards, 19-7, thanks to six from Davonte Davis.

• Auburn had five steals, but Arkansas only had eight turnovers and Arkansas out-scored Auburn 6-4 on points off turnovers.

• Arkansas scored eight points on its five offensive rebounds. Auburn had zero offensive rebounds.

• Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh each scored nine points to lead the Razorbacks.

• Wendell Green Jr., led Auburn with 11 points.

• Arkansas shot 54.2% and Auburn shot 43.5%

SECOND HALF: Arkansas 39, Auburn 40

• Arkansas wrestled the momentum back from Auburn with a 7-0 run to start the second half. The Razorbacks stretched the run to 17-6 to take its largest lead – a 15-point advantage (54-39) with 14:04 left.

• Auburn worked its deficit to four (59-55) at the 9:15 mark. Smith answered with a 3-pointer.

• Each time Auburn drew near, Arkansas was able to come up with an answer to halt the Tigers’ momentum.

• However, down seven with 4:29 left, Auburn got to within one (70-69) with 2:47 left. Makhi Mitchell put the Hogs back up three with a layup at the 1:34 mark.

• Jaylin Williams made it a one-point game again with 1:30 left and, after a Razorbacks miss, Flanigan scored with 41 seconds left to give Auburn its first lead since 2-0 to start the game and set up the thrilling end.

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• Arkansas shot 57.7% in the second half while Auburn shot 53.6%.

• Arkansas outrebounded Auburn 18-12 ad outscored the Tigers 10-6 in second chance points.

Game Notes

• Arkansas’ starting lineup was Anthony Black – Nick Smith Jr. – Davonte Davis – Ricky Council IV – Kamani Johnson for the first time.

• Auburn won the tip.

• Auburn’s Jaylin Williams scored the first points of the game on two free throws at 18:20. Nick Smith Jr., scored the first points for Arkansas at 18:03.

• Makhi Mitchell was the first Razorback sub.

• Ricky Council IV scored his 1,000th career point on his first basket of the game, a dunk at 12:43.

• Arkansas is 30-29 all-time in the SEC Tournament but is now just 2-2 when playing second round games.

• This was just the second time Arkansas faced Auburn in the SEC Tournament and the Hogs are 2-0 versus the Tigers.

• (Hogstats.com) The 19 rebounds by Auburn tie for the second-fewest total by an Arkansas opponent in the shot clock era. The fewest were 18 by West Virginia (11/26/2006). Later that season, Missouri-Kansas City (12/2/2006) only had 19.

• (Hogstats.com) Twice, Arkansas lost multiple games heading into the SEC Tournament then won its first game in the SEC Tournament. In 1998, Arkansas lost its last two regular-season games then beat Tennessee in Atlanta. This year, Arkansas lost its last three before beating Auburn Thursday night.

• Eric Musselman improves to 4-2 in SEC Tournament games and is 23-11 in all postseason games as a collegiate head coach.

Information from Arkansas Communications is included in this story.

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