By Mike Cawood
NORTH LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas was down five (63-58) with 4:14 left in the game but went on a 12-2 run, thanks to a highlight-reel blocked shot by Adrio Bailey and two 3-pointers by Mason Jones, to pull out a 72-68 victory over Valparaiso Saturday night at Simmons Bank Arena.
Isaiah Joe started the run at the 3:50 mark, making three free throws when he was fouled attempting a 3-pointer from the top of the key. With 1:30 remaining and the Hogs down three, Joe got a steal and fed Jones for a 3-pointer from the left wing to knot the game, 65-65. On Valpo’s ensuing possession, Jimmy Whitt Jr., got a steal and Jones drained a triple with 53 seconds left for a 3-point Razorback lead.
For the third consecutive defensive possession, Arkansas got a defensive stop as Bailey came through with the play of the game. The Crusaders’ leading scorer, Javon Freeman-Liberty, drove the basket and Bailey blocked the layup attempt. Joe gathered the rebound, was fouled and sank two free throws to cap the run for a five-point lead with 36 seconds left.
Valpo answered with a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game, but Jones was fouled on the in-bounds play and promptly drained two free throws with 25 seconds left to provide the 72-68 final.
Jones, who battled foul trouble and missed his first three 3-pointers, made his last two triples of the game and was 8-of-9 from the free throw line to score 20 points. He added nine rebounds and four assists and was the only Razorback in double figures in the plus-minus with +17.
Joe led the Razorbacks with 21 pints and added seven rebounds. He made five 3-pointers and was 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Bailey sank two early 3-pointers and finished with 10 points, five rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals. Whitt added 10 points as well.
Arkansas will return to action Dec. 29 (Sunday) versus the Indiana Hoosiers. Game time is set for 6 pm (ET)/5 pm (CT) in Bloomington, Ind., and the contest will be aired on the Big 10 Network.