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Smith steps up to avoid another blown second-half lead

Finally, Hogs get someone who wants to take shot at end … and make it to salvage a win.



FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Everybody was thinking Thursday night they’d seen Arkansas play this movie too many times this year.

When Anthony Black got a second-chance little short jumper with 14:04 to play, the 10th-seeded Razorbacks had a 54-39 lead over No. 7 Auburn.

Nick Smith finally did what nobody has been able to accomplish for a lot of the season in hitting THE shot when it HAD to be made.

“We have missed Nick in that exact type of situation,” Hogs coach Eric Musselman said later. “We have lost a lot of close games. We just talked about this game has its own theme, its own identity. Forget what’s happened in the past.”

It looked like a blowout was about to take place in Nashville, Tenn., at the SEC Tournament until a change in direction fans have seen all too often this year.

That didn’t last a minute.

A layup by Allen Flanigan, who prepped at Little Rock Parkview, made a layup with 13:13 to play that cut the lead 9, 54-45.

After a 10-0 run by the Tigers it was a 6-point game with 9:41 to play. That’s how fast these things can turn around.

Flanigan gave Auburn the lead with 41 seconds to play with a little jumper in the lane and the Hogs suddenly couldn’t find anybody that could hit the key basket. It’s happened a few times this year.

Then Smith, finally back on the court after spending a couple of months dealing with a knee injury, lived up to his reputation.

His pull-up jumper from the right side with 16 seconds left gave the Hogs a lead, then helped get a big defensive stop to seal things. But it was finally somebody stepping up to get a basket when it was desperately needed.

“Nick read the defense well, was really aggressive, as well,” Musselman said. “He wanted the ball in his hands. I thought our guys did a good job of finding him and not rushing a shot. We rushed a shot about a minute and a half before that.

“For a freshman to make that shot in an SEC Tournament game, that’s a big shot.”

Maybe it’s the spark this team needs.

And a big shot of confidence.

The Hogs have a short turnaround before returning to action Friday for a quarterfinal matchup with No. 2-seed Texas A&M.

Tipoff between the Razorbacks (20-12) and Aggies (23-8) is scheduled for 6 p.m. on the SEC Network. You can also hear the game on radio at ESPN Arkansas 99.5 in Fayetteville, 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home.


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