The University of Arkansas still hasn't lost to Texas-San Antonio in six games, but the Razorbacks had to survive the Roadrunners' upset bid Saturday night at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.
UTSA led by four points with less than 10 minutes to play before Arkansas rallied to win 79-67 before a crowd of 12,462.
"I think we fought through adversity," said Arkansas sophomore point guard Jalen Harris, who had 11 points and 10 assists with 1 turnover in 34 minutes. "It wasn't pretty, but we managed to get through it and stick together."
Freshman guard Isaiah Joe led Arkansas (7-2) with 21 points and hit 6 of 6 free throws in the final 32.8 seconds to clinch the victory.
"We just knew that going down the stretch down by four, we had to keep our composure," Joe said. "We're put in these situations a lot in practice, so we knew what to expect.
"We rebounded and we played good defense, and we made our free throws. I think the free throws were really big going down the stretch."
Arkansas hit 27 of 34 free throws (79.4 percent) after coming into the game shooting 62.7 percent on the season.
"We hadn't been very good at the free-throw line, but we were pretty good tonight," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. "We were good when we needed to be tonight."
Sophomore forward Daniel Gafford had 13 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for the Razorbacks, and freshman forward Reggie Chaney matched his season-high with 11 points off the bench.
Sophomore guard Jhivvan Jackson led UTSA (3-7) with 20 points. Sophomore guard Keaton Wallace had 18 points.
"They're really good guards," Harris said. "I feel like we're going to have to face a lot of guards like that in SEC play, and also on Wednesday coming up [against Georgia Tech]. We just want to get used to it and keep going at each other in practice every day because we have really good guards, too."
Joe hit 5 of 6 three-pointers.
"Well, I thought he was just what I thought he was on film," UTSA Coach Steve Henson said. "He's a good player.
"Just smooth, got that high release. You can chase him off the three-point line, but he pump fakes, side steps and shoots a one-dribble pull-up from three pretty comfortably."
Arkansas freshman guard Desi Sills matched his career high with nine points off the bench. He also scored nine points in Western Kentucky's 78-77 victory over the Razorbacks on Dec. 8.
"Desi's finding his niche," Anderson said. "He's playing the way he should be playing. His confidence level, you can see it growing."
Arkansas started 5 of 22 from the field and finished at 41.8 percent (23 of 55) by shooting 12 of 24 in the second half.
"They just hung in with us," Anderson said of the crowd, which kept urging on the Razorbacks. "We didn't get off to a great start. Part of that probably was us and Texas-San Antonio. I thought those kids played extremely hard. Steve Henson had those guys ready to play. It seemed like every loose ball they came up with.
"I thought we were a little sluggish. You could see I was trying to search with that team to find somebody that could give us some energy, especially on defense."
Anderson praised Sills and Chaney for bringing the energy as well as sophomore forward Gabe Osabuohien, who had four points and four rebounds.
"They came in and gave us a big lift," Anderson said. "I thought their energy was really contagious."
The Roadrunners took a 52-48 lead on two free throws by Giovanni De Nicolao with 9:07 to play.
Arkansas went ahead 53-52 on Joe's three-point basket with 8:19 left.
Jackson tied it 53-53 at the 8:00 mark by hitting the second of two free throws.
The Razorbacks got five consecutive free throws -- Harris hit 4 of 4, and Gafford 1 of 2 -- to take a 58-53 lead with 6:31 left.
After Jackson hit two free throws, Gafford dunked with an alley-oop pass from Harris to put Arkansas ahead 62-57 at the 5:14 mark.
Jackson's three-pointer pulled UTSA within 64-62 with 2:23 left.
After Harris hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 65-62, Jackson drove to the basket and was called for an offensive foul when he elbowed Joe.
The Razorbacks pushed their lead to 69-62 on Mason Jones' layup with 1:02 left after Harris hit two free throws.
"Arkansas is good," Henson said. "We knew that. We have a lot of respect for them. Love the way they play. I like their team. I like their talent. They have a little bit of everything."
In the final minutes, the Razorbacks had enough to beat the Roadrunners.
Sports on 12/16/2018
Print Headline: Verizon scare: Hogs make free throws to fight off Roadrunners at North Little Rock arena