Georgia Tech upsets Arkansas 69-65 at Walton Arena

Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE –  For their second consecutive game at Walton Arena the Arkansas Razorbacks failed to control tempo and lost again at their domain where they had won 28  consecutive nonconference games until Western Kentucky edged them 78-77 on Dec. 8.
Wednesday night the low-scoring but defensive minded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets controlled the tempo and beat the Razorbacks, 69-65.
Arkansas’ last hope died when officials ruled Arkansas point guard Jalen Harris defending  an inbounds pass with two seconds left  that was off him and not Georgia Tech following Mason Jones’ 3-pointer upping Arkansas to down 67-65 with five seconds left.
Arkansas then had to foul before Tech’s Khalid Moore scored the game’s final points from the free throw line.
The loss, sandwiched  between the Western Kentucky loss and a 79-67 victory over Texas-San Antonio at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock,  drops Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks to 7-3 going into Saturday afternoon’s game at Walton against Texas State.
Coach Josh Pastner’s Yellow Jackets of the ACC, upset Monday night at their Atlanta home by Gardner-Webb, evened their record at 5-5.
“We had a tough loss on Monday coming after finals and we didn’t play well,” Pastner said. “To come back 48 hours later and get a win like this against a very good basketball that’s well coached, and with a lot of good players is outstanding.”
Though never by much,  Arkansas led the first half of the second half until Tech’s Jose Alvarado tied it  43-43.
Arkansas last led, 60-59 on an Isaiah Joe 3-pointer at 2:15  and never could muster the key shot once the Yellow Jackets took the lead on James Banks’ two free throws at 1:47 and got a big rebound and fast break bucket from Alvardo  for a 63-60 lead at 1:30 after Joe missed a 3-point shot.
Yellow Jackets  freshman point  guard   Alvarado, only 6-feet but ultimately the biggest player in the game, tallied a game-leading 20 points with nine rebounds and played all 40 minutes against Arkansas.
“He (Alvarado)  had a great game,” Arkansas sophomore guard  Jones said.  “He controlled the tempo of the game and he played the whole game and had the ball in his hands the whole game. You’ve got to give him credit where credit is due.”
James Banks, Tech’s 6-9 center, double-doubled  scoring 14 points with 14 rebounds and blocking five shots  neutralizing the 14 points and eight rebounds, and three shot blocks  by Daniel Gafford, Arkansas’ 6-11 center from El Dorado. Tech dominated the boards, 43-31.
Arkansas committed an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers partially because of  Tech’s tough defense but also on the Hogs’ own slop, Anderson said.
“We had 16 turnovers and they had  eight steals,” Anderson said  “Those were  turnovers that  we just gave them. Guys not being in the attack mode and not making good passes. That’s a big part of the ballgame.  But let’s give them (the Yellow Jackets) credit. Josh had his team in the right mindset.  I thought they played desperate.”
Rather than taking Georgia Tech lightly because of the Gardner-Webb loss, Anderson and Jones, the lone player media available after Wednesday’s late night game, expected an intense team because the Hogs had been in the same shoes coming off the Western Kentucky loss against Texas-San Antonio.
Arkansas despite forcing 20 Tech turnovers, played with a kind of  desperation that Anderson didn’t like against Tech’s zone launching 32 threes among its 62 shots.
“And I think we just settled,” Anderson said.   “Half our shots were 3-point shots and we are not that type of team.”
Jones led Arkansas with 17 points but shot 5 of 15 doing so including 5 of 13 treys.
Freshman guard  Joe of Fort Smith Northside  scored 13 but only hit 5 of 17 shots including 3 of 12 treys.
Gafford, 6 of 9, with the Hogs too often throwing it away trying to find him inside, was the only Razorback to attempt (2 of 4)  more than two free throws.
Anderson said the Hogs paid a perimeter price getting only nine free throw attempts, even shooting a good percentage with seven makes, to Tech’s 14 of 20 getting fouled going inside.
Despite falling into a 13-2 hole, Arkansas dug itself out to lead, 32-31 at intermission.
From there it seemed the Hogs might eke by but Alvarado controlled the game’s pace and ultimately the scoreboard.

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