FAYETTEVILLE (AP) — Michael Qualls scored 17 points and Arkansas got just enough defensive stops late to hold off Clemson for a 74-68 win on Saturday.
The Tigers limited Arkansas to only two field goals the final 10 minutes, created several second-chance opportunities and watched as the Razorbacks missed eight free throws in the final 6:05.
“We had a comfortable lead, but the game is not over until it’s over,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said.
Arkansas used great 3-point shooting to help build a 16-point lead after halftime. Alandise Harris’ 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer gave the Razorbacks a 40-32 lead and Rashad Madden added two more treys in Arkansas’ first two possessions of the second half.
The Razorbacks (6-2) made 10 of their first 15 attempts from 3-point range against Clemson, which entered the game allowing the fewest points per game in the NCAA.
“It’s what they were giving us,” Anderson said. “Some were in transition. The Clemson defense packs it in there and they make you shoot jump shots.”
The Tigers eventually clamped down on Arkansas’ shooters, holding the Razorbacks without a made basket for more than 6 minutes during one stretch late in the second half. Bobby Portis’ jumper from the baseline with 4:07 left and breakaway slam with 4 seconds remaining were Arkansas’ only made field goals in the final 10 minutes, 17 seconds.
The defensive prowess allowed Clemson (7-2) to climb back into the game. The Tigers used an 11-2 run to pull within 65-60 on a K.J. McDaniels 3-pointer with 2:49 remaining.
McDaniels finished with a career-high 27 points and 11 rebounds.
Damarcus Harrison had a fast-break chance seconds after the McDaniels 3, but Harris, who had missed four straight free throws minutes earlier, blocked him from behind to preserve a five-point advantage for the Razorbacks.
“He was on his way to a layup and we always tell our guys to never give up on a play,” Anderson said. “I think Alandise wanted to make amends... for missing those free throws. Players have to make plays going down the stretch. Obviously that was a big play.”
McDaniels added a dunk with 29 seconds left to pull Clemson to within 70-66. The Tigers twice pulled to within four points in the final minute, but couldn’t get any closer.
Clemson had several chances to further cut into the Arkansas lead, recording 19 offensive rebounds, but the Tigers only capitalized with 14 second-chance points. During one possession in the second half, Clemson had four offensive rebounds but came away with no points.
The Tigers were held to 32.8 percent shooting Saturday, but made up for the poor shooting by converting 25 of 29 free throw attempts.
Clemson controlled the tempo for much of the first half, running a slower pace that seemed to frustrate the contrasting styled Razorbacks. The Tigers capped a 9-0 run with a pair of McDaniels dunks in transition to take a 26-24 lead with 7:06 remaining before halftime.
Arkansas began to speed things up when the Razorbacks began to hit shots from beyond the arc. Harris and Madden made consecutive 3-pointers to give Arkansas the lead for good with less than 5 minutes left in the first half.
Michael Qualls, who scored a team-high 17 points for Arkansas, also added a pair of makes from 3-point range in the first half. Madden added a career-best four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points.
The game was the first between Arkansas and Clemson since a Razorbacks win in 1962.
The Razorbacks won their 19th straight game at home.