January 15, 2014
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Michael Qualls has a history of poster-worthy dunks in his two seasons at Arkansas.
His latest might just become a thing of legend all around the state.
Qualls slammed home a thundering two-hand rebound dunk with .2 seconds remaining in overtime to send Arkansas to an 87-85 victory over No. 13 Kentucky on Tuesday night.
The win came at a time of desperation for the Razorbacks (12-4, 1-2 Southeastern Conference), who had opened SEC play with two losses – including a heartbreaking overtime defeat to No. 7 Florida at home on Saturday.
And it came in dramatic fashion, thanks to the high-flying Qualls, who said he also won two games in high school with last-second rebound dunks.
The sophomore entered the game leading the Razorbacks in scoring at 12.7 points per game, but he had struggled mightily in SEC play – shooting a combined 3 of 22 (13.6 percent) in the first two conference games.
“Crashing the boards in that type of situation is the best time to crash the boards,” Qualls said. “… They forget about you. I just saw an opportunity and took it.”
Arkansas has won three straight at home over the Wildcats (12-4, 2-1), whose four-game winning streak was snapped.
Qualls finished with 18 points, none bigger than his last two. He flew in from the baseline as time was winding down, corralling Ky Madden’s 3-point miss and sending the season-high Bud Walton Arena crowd of 18,619 into a frenzy with his dunk.
Madden had 18 points for Arkansas, while Alandise Harris finished with 12 and Bobby Portis 11.
It was Qualls, who made national highlight shows earlier this season with his spectacular one-handed tomahawk dunk over 6-foot-10 Southern Illinois-Edwardsville forward Keaton Jackson, whose final play is sure to be remembered.
“It was an unbelievable finish,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “… He just came out of nowhere. It was fortunate for us he was playing for the Razorbacks.”
Arkansas nearly won the game in regulation, taking a 74-71 lead with 9.4 seconds remaining on a three-point play by Harris.
However, Andrew Harrison answered for the Wildcats – slipping under a screen and connecting on a wide-open 3-opinter from in front of the Wildcats bench to tie the game with 1.2 seconds remaining.
The game appeared headed for a second overtime after Young’s 3-pointer with 10.2 seconds left tied the game at 85.
Following Young’s shot, Arkansas didn’t call a timeout. Madden tried to win the game with a 3-point attempt from the right corner, but it hit the front of the rim and bounced right into the hands of the streaking Qualls.
“It was just my fault,” Young said. “I stopped playing at the last second, thought it was going to bounce off and time was going to run out. I just stopped playing at the last second.”
The Wildcats were then unable to get the ball inbounds with .2 seconds remaining.
The Razorbacks led by as many as nine points in the first half before settling for a 43-41 lead.
They did so by scoring 14 points off 10 turnovers by the Wildcats, who controlled the inside but struggled against Arkansas’ pressure defense.
“I hate losing, but I’m fine,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Those kids did not quit … We had a bunch of turnovers early, but I thought offensively we basically made the plays we wanted.
“You’ve got to give them credit.”
Mardracus Wade gave the Razorbacks their largest lead of the first half with a 3-pointer that made it 37-28 as Arkansas tried to rebound after having its 23-game home winning streak snapped by the Gators.
Kentucky answered the run with a 10-0 burst of its own, doing so behind a dominating inside game. Young had six points during the run, including a steal and layup to go up 38-37.
The teams combined to commit 60 fouls. Arkansas was 29 of 41 (70.7 percent) from the free throw line, while the Wildcats were 26 of 40 (65 percent).
The Razorbacks were outrebounded by Kentucky 50-32, but Qualls grabbed the most important one.
“I guess we had enough plays in us to find a way to win,” Anderson said.