OPINION | WALLY HALL: Vanderbilt saved celebration for flight home

If the game had been in Nashville, Tenn., all 279 Vanderbilt fans may have stormed the court.

Arkansas came into Tuesday night’s game looking for its third consecutive win. Instead, Vanderbilt got its third consecutive win over the Razorbacks, this one 85-82 at Walton Arena.

Vandy used a combination of zone and man-to-man defenses to build a lead and then hit enough free throws down the stretch to escape a game that has become a typical SEC officiated game.

Don’t take that wrong. Officiating did not determine the outcome. Defense did.

Yet, the SEC officials are not doing the league’s teams any favors in getting ready for the always physical play of the NCAA Tournament — although neither team is a threat to be dancing in March.

The officials called 46 fouls, 23 on each team, and too many of them were anticipation calls. Arkansas made 26 of 31 free throws and Vanderbilt 23-32, turning a fast game into a free-throw marathon.

Until too late in the game, the Razorbacks struggled from the field. They got hot late and ended up hitting 23 of 57 shots, but they allowed the Commodores to make 29 of 57 and the dagger was letting the visitors get 44 points in the paint.

No one expected this loss, but even in a win it would not have been exaggerated.

There’s a new scrutiny nationwide over fans rushing the court after Duke’s Kyle Filipowski suffered an injured ankle during a court rush by Wake Forest fans immediately after the Demon Deacons’ 83-79 win Saturday.

The overzealous and jubilant Wake fans must not have known they were actually favored in the game.

Of course, Arkansas fans rushed the court after it beat Duke 80-75 earlier this season, and the Razorback nation has been there as a major program under Eddie Sutton, Nolan Richardson and now Eric Musselman.

Arkansas was f ined $100,000, but the mass hysteria last Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C., didn’t cost the Demon Deacons a penny.

It didn’t matter than Mike Krzyzewski is retired and no longer coaches Duke. He built such a dominant program that the Blue Devils will forever carry a target on their back.

Like Alabama, Nick Saban may be gone, but beating the Crimson Tide in football will tempt the fans to storm the field more than just about any opponent.

Duke Coach Jon Scheyer is all too familiar in what it means to beat the Blue Devils and wants a 10-second period for the players to clear the court before the mayhem begins.

The ACC does not fine schools for court rushing, while the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 have fining systems.

Arkansas set the stage to not get another fine from the SEC in the first half when the home team was outscored 25-11 in the last 12:44 as the Razorbacks struggled mightily against Vandy’s zone defense, going 1 of 17 to finish the half and go into the halftime break down 35-31.

It would have been worse if the Hogs hadn’t been able to make free throws. They made 9 of 11 while making a lone field goal, but just as big of an issue was they let up on defense and the Commodores were more than willing to take advantage of it.

They made 10 of their last 18 from the field and wisely laid off the three, going inside where they got 20 points in the paint in the first half.

The Razorbacks took the Vandy zone as an invitation to shoot threes and they fired 12 but only one found the mark. That set the tone was set against a team whose hope was to find a way to survive and let the celebration be on the way home.

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