3:05 PM ET, January 24, 2004
Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Arkansas
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."Freshman guard Ronnie Brewer scored a season-high 21 points and Jonathon Modica matched that to send Vanderbilt to its third straight Southeastern Conference road loss.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," Heath said.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 halftime."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."
|» Jan 24, 2004||@ARK 70, VAN 62||Recap|