Razorbacks rout Vanderbilt to reach SEC Championship game
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) —
The Arkansas Razorbacks knew they had an edge being much more rested and deeper than Vanderbilt, and they ran right over the Commodores on their way into the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game.
Moses Kingsley had 12 points and 13 rebounds as the third-seeded Razorbacks beat Vanderbilt 76-62 on Saturday in the tournament semifinals that was never really close after halftime.
"What a tremendous effort, a team win," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "We came out, got off to a good start against a Vanderbilt team that was one of the hottest teams in the country. We knew what we had to do. They were playing their game in three days, and we had to make the game chaotic for them."
The Razorbacks (25-8) won their third straight to reach the championship for the seventh time. They will play eighth-ranked Kentucky, a 79-74 winner over Alabama , for the second time in three years Sunday.
Arkansas simply smothered Vanderbilt, especially in the paint where the Razorbacks had a 46-16 scoring edge.
Jaylen Barford led Arkansas with 18 points. Dusty Hannahs added 16 and Daryl Macon 15.
Seventh-seeded Vanderbilt (19-15) snapped a three-game winning streak end after reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2013.
"Just seemed like Arkansas was a little faster to the ball, a little faster to the rim, shot a little bit better, did everything a little bit better than us," Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said.
Riley LaChance scored 12 points for Vanderbilt. Joe Toye added 12, and Jeff Roberson and Matthew Fisher-Davis each had 10.
These teams won on each other's floor during the season with Vandy a blown 15-point lead away from sweeping Arkansas.
This time, the Razorbacks led 35-31 at halftime and took control with a 26-8 run to start the second half.
"We knew if we came out the second half would be our half if we just kept running and executing," Hannahs said .
Drew tried to rest his starters where he could in the first half with Luke Kornet and Roberson playing only 12 minutes after each played at least 38 minutes in Friday's overtime win over No. 17 Florida in the quarterfinals. It just wasn't enough as the Commodores missed their first nine shots to start the game and the first six of the second.
Vandy used a 12-2 run to take its first lead but couldn't hold it for long.
Barford scored seven of his 10 points in a quick spurt after a tie at 19 to put the Razorbacks ahead to stay.
Arkansas, outscored only three times in the second half all season, wound up leading by as much as 27. Vanderbilt used a 13-0 run late to make the final margin more respectable.
Vanderbilt: Bubble talk still surrounds the Commodores despite having six Top 50 wins, though three of those came at the expense of Florida. Now they have to wait and see if those wins and a victory over Iowa State are enough to put them into the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year and 15th overall.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks polished their tournament resume with a big win -- their eighth in nine games. Now they can take another shot at Kentucky looking for the program's second SEC tournament title and first since 2000. They were the No. 3 seed that year too.
Kentucky fans have turned Bridgestone Arena into Rupp Arena South. Asked about Sunday's game technically being on a neutral court, Anderson said he expects a great atmosphere and that his Razorbacks are used to playing front of people. "We'll have some fans here too," Anderson said. "The Hogs are coming."
Vanderbilt: Anxiously waiting for NCAA Tournament announcement.
Arkansas: Kentucky in Sunday's championship.