for this game

Arkansas upsets Vanderbilt, advances to SEC semis

Mar 15, 2008 - 2:14 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Arkansas continued its recent dominance over Vanderbilt.

Gary Ervin scored 18 points, including four clutch free throws down the stretch, and Darian Townes chipped 18 points to lead the Razorbacks to an 81-75 upset victory over the 17th-ranked Commodores in the Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals on Friday.

Charles Thomas had 13 points and Stefan Welsh added 11 for the Razorbacks (21-10), who have won five eight of their last nine against the Commodores, including a 72-71 victory in last year's SEC quarterfinals.

"We knew we had our hands full, playing (Vanderbilt)," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "I'm proud of our guys. I think we played pretty good basketball. It was team basketball."

Alex Gordon tallied 22 points and Shan Foster and freshman A.J. Ogilvy added 14 points apiece for Vanderbilt (26-7), which failed in its bid to snag its first SEC tournament crown in 57 years.

"They seem to play with a confidence against us that you don't see when they play other teams," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "Maybe the basket looks bigger when they play us."

Arkansas will face No. 4 Tennessee in the SEC semifinals on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of a February 13 contest, won by the Volunteers, 93-71.

"Tennessee's awesome," Pelphrey said. "We need (a game like) this where everybody contributes. But we know how tall of an order that is."

After Gordon's 3-pointer cut the Razorbacks' lead to 65-63 with 3:44 remaining, Arkansas went on an 8-2 run - all with free throws - to put the game away.

Ervin hit a pair of free throws before Ogilvy split a pair from the stripe to cut the lead to three. Patrick Beverly drained two free throws to put Arkansas ahead, 69-64, with 1:35 remaining before Thomas put back Sonny Weems' miss to extend the lead to seven.

Gordon split another pair of free throws before Ervin made two from the stripe to give the Razorbacks an insurmountable 73-65 lead with 58 seconds remaining. Vanderbilt, which held its only lead in the game's first minute, got no closer than four points thereafter.

"We wanted to come out with a sense of urgency to win a basketball game," Ervin said. "This is a way we wished we would have played all season."

Arkansas capitalized on its size advantage, decimating Vanderbilt on the boards. The Razorbacks held a 45-24 advantage on the glass and dominated the Commodores, 22-6, on the offensive boards.

"We just got beat badly on the boards," Stallings said. "We gave them too many second, third and fourth opportunities. That was the difference in the game."

The rebound advantage helped Arkansas overcome a poor shooting night from its star Weems, who finished with just three points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field.

Although Weems did not have his normal offensive output, he was a menace on defense, holding SEC Player of the Year Foster to just 14 points.

"Weems is a good defender," Stallings said. "Defensively, he's got good size and good strength."

Led by 13 points from Townes, Arkansas led by as many as seven in the first half, connecting on 49 percent (17-of-35) from the field en route to taking a 40-36 lead into the break.

Ogilvy picked up in the first half where he left off Thursday. The Australian, who scored a career-high 27 points on 12-for-13 shooting in the Commodores' first-round game against Auburn, tallied 13 points in the first half.

But he was held to only one point the rest of the way as the Razorbacks sent the Commodores to their third loss in five games since upsetting then-No. 1 Tennessee on February 26.