NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kedren Johnson hit all four of his free throws in the final 19.8 seconds, and the 10th-seeded Vanderbilt Commodores upset No. 7 seed Arkansas 75-72 Thursday night in their first chance at defending their Southeastern Conference tournament championship.
The Associated Press
The Commodores (15-16) lost the top six players off that title team with three now playing in the NBA. They will play No. 2 seed Kentucky in the quarterfinals Friday night in a rematch of last year's championship game.
Arkansas (19-13) lost for the 12th time in 13 games away from Fayetteville including three times on neutral courts. Not even the fans calling the hogs helped it feel enough like home as the Razorbacks last led at 9-7.
Rod Odom led Vanderbilt with 20 points, Kyle Fuller had 19, Johnson finished with 13 and Dai-Jon Parker 11.
BJ Young led Arkansas with 16 points. Marshawn Powell had 13 before fouling out late and Michael Qualls added 10.
These young Commodores made it way too interesting as Arkansas clawed its way back, trimming a 59-43 lead to 70-68 on a pair of free throws by Young with 50.9 seconds left. Then Vanderbilt, which had hit as many 3-pointers in the second half as free throws (6 of 15), hit 5 of 6 at the line in clinching the win in the final 19.8 seconds.
Vanderbilt finished 17 of 30 at the line.
Only three of the current Commodores even averaged more than three minutes a game on last season's team, and the growing pains were very obvious all of this season as the Commodores racked up 10 close losses in the SEC including one in overtime, two by four points, one by two points and a pair of road games by a point.
But the Commodores now have won five of their last six, and they used their shooting prowess beyond the arc. Vanderbilt ranks eighth out of 347 Division I teams, taking 43.6 percent of its shots from 3-point range, and third nationally scoring 38.5 percent of its points off 3s.
Five different Commodores hit at least one 3, Fuller got it started coming for a 3-pointer that tied it up at 7 with 14:36 left. Clarke dunked to give Arkansas its last lead at 9-7. Johnson tied it up at 9 with a layup and Fuller's layup put the Commodores ahead to stay in a 24-8 run capped by Odom hitting his third 3-pointer of the half for a 31-17 lead with 7:28 left.
Vanderbilt wound up shooting better beyond the arc than overall, hitting 42.9 percent (12 of 28) from deep compared to 41.1 percent (23 of 56). Arkansas tried to keep pace despite shooting 28 percent from 3-point range in league play, and the Razorbacks finished 4 of 16.
The Commodores were up 37-23 when Arkansas scored seven straight to trim the lead, and Fuller hit a free throw with 1:03 left giving Vanderbilt a 38-30 lead that would have been bigger except the Commodores missed at the buzzer when trying to set up the final shot.
Arkansas pulled within 38-34 on a pair of free throws by Powell in the opening minute of the second. Parker hit a 3 that started a 13-4 spurt by Vanderbilt to push the lead back to double digits. Odom hit his fourth of five 3s to give the Commodores their biggest lead of the game at 59-43 midway through the half.