FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Michael Jones was ready for his first
start of the year.
He had scored only seven points off the Arkansas bench in the
five games before No. 22 Vanderbilt visited Saturday -- and all
seven of those came in one game, against Alabama.
But Razorback coach Stan Heath said Jones had a really good
practice Friday, so he took the floor for the tipoff. The junior
delivered with 18 points and seven rebounds in a 70-62 victory.
The 6-foot-9 Jones, normally a defensive and rebounding
liability, hustled after rebounds and loose balls.
"That's the only way I can get playing time," Jones said.
"Coach Heath knows I can shoot the ball, but if I don't rebound
then we have a problem."
The victory provided Arkansas (10-7, 2-4 Southeastern
Conference) some redemption after blowing a 19-point lead in a
70-63 loss at Auburn on Wednesday, its fourth loss in five games.
"We did not want to give up this game," said Jones, who hadn't
started since Feb. 1 at Florida last year. "We played a
hard-fought game at Auburn, we let it slip and we were all upset
after that. We were going to come out with this ball game."
Brewer made all six free throw attempts to put him at 18-of-21
from the line in the past three games. Before that, he had made
just 43 percent of his foul shots.
"Today was his best all-around game, mentally and physically,"
Matt Freije had 19 points and seven rebounds for Vanderbilt
(13-3, 2-3), which is 1-3 since opening the season with 12 straight
wins. The Commodores lost at Kentucky and Tennessee and have been
off a week since beating then-No. 15 Florida last Saturday.
"I wasn't surprised to see Michael Jones play as much as he
did," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "Arkansas has been
struggling and they were looking for a spark. I told our kids to be
looking for a surprise start and it just happened to be Jones. We
did not guard him today."
After Brewer's one-handed dunk gave Arkansas a 37-36 lead with
13:04 remaining, the teams traded the lead eight times over the
next 8 minutes.
A 3-pointer by Modica, his fourth in six attempts, gave the
Razorbacks a 61-56 lead with 2:43 remaining, kicking off a 12-6 run
to end the game. Modica added another basket after missing the
front end of a 1-and-1, then grabbed two offensive rebounds while
Jones went 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
"I never wanted to give up and my family kept believing in
me," Jones said. "I knew I was at the end of the bench, but one
time he might call on me. I'm glad he called me today and I was
ready for the challenge."
The win was Arkansas' first over a ranked opponent this season
and its first since beating No. 20 Mississippi State, 53-51, last
March 1. The 10 wins surpasses the total coach Stan Heath had in
his first season at Arkansas.
The week off didn't slow Freije, the SEC's preseason player of
the year, who broke out of a six-game slump in the Florida game
with 23 points. But the Commodores only shot 37.7 percent from the
field and Arkansas turned 17 turnovers into 18 points.
"Every time we thought we had a chance at taking this game,
Arkansas would take it back," Freije said. "They would steal and
dunk it. They did a good job of keeping the game in their favor."
Mario Moore of Vanderbilt scored all 17 of his points after
"It's very frustrating to go on the road and lose a close one
like this. It's ridiculous," Moore said. "We are a better team
than this. We just aren't showing it right now."