FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas did its best impression of the 1994 team in a 66-64 win over Michigan (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP).
Playing in front of a season-high crowd of 19,500, including former coach Nolan Richardson, the Razorbacks moved to 14-0 in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday afternoon.
They did so behind 15 points from freshman B.J. Young, earning their second win at home over a ranked team this season. Arkansas (14-5) defeated then-No. 15 Mississippi State in Southeastern Conference play on Jan. 7, but that performance paled in comparison to what this group of Razorbacks showed early against the Wolverines.
Arkansas connected on its first 11 shots in building a 20-point first-half lead. It wasn’t until Trey Burke’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed out that the Razorbacks secured the win, which was their first over Michigan since a quarterfinal matchup against the Wolverines in the 1994 NCAA Tournament.
They went on to win the school’s only national championship that season, with Richardson as the coach and Mike Anderson on the bench as an assistant. Anderson was hired away from Missouri in March as Arkansas’ coach, and Saturday’s win was another signature win as he hopes to return the school to the NCAA tournament after missing the last three seasons.
“I think a lot of things came together,” Anderson said. “To me, it was fitting that we won, but it went down to the last second. We were very fortunate.”
The loss is yet another road disappointment for Michigan (15-5), which still hasn’t won a game on an opponent’s home court this season. The Wolverines stormed back from the early deficit to cut the Arkansas lead to two in the closing minutes, but they were unable to build on Tuesday’s 60-59 win over No. 9 Michigan State.
Michigan, which shot 41 percent (25 of 61) has now lost at Arkansas, Virginia, Indiana and Iowa this season, as well as in Maui.
“If you’re going to win on the road, you have got to have so much more talent than the other team, or you’ve got to play your best game,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “That’s pretty much what it comes down to.
“Look at our shooting stats: We did not play our best game.”
Coming off a 86-63 blowout loss at No. 2 Kentucky on Tuesday, Arkansas played like the 1994 championship team early on Saturday. The Razorbacks built a 34-14 lead on the strength of its early shooting and led 49-33 early in the second half.
Behind the lively crowd, also on hand to celebrate the school’s Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State at halftime, Arkansas connected on its first 11 shots. That included four 3-pointers to build a 29-10 lead, and it shot 50 percent (24 of 48) in the first half. Young had seven points during the early run, while fellow freshman Hunter Mickelson capped the perfect shooting start with an inside basket with 10:24 remaining in the half.
The Razorbacks’ first miss was on a jumper by Rashad Madden with 9:49 remaining and were 17 of 26 (65 percent) in the half, while the Wolverines struggled to 11 of 28.
“It was a great atmosphere, great fan support, great team effort,” Young said. “We had a good win. It was a great atmosphere, fully packed and I think we fed off the crowd.”
Michigan stormed back after falling behind by 16 early in the second half, withJordan Morgan scoring eight-straight points at one point to help the Wolverines cut the lead to 49-43. Morgan finished with 16 points, while Zack Novak led Michigan with 17 points and Burke added 13.
Arkansas led 61-48 with less than seven minutes remaining, but Novak’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 62-60 three minutes later.
Mickelson put the Razorbacks up 66-62 with 42 seconds left, scoring inside as the shot clock wound down on a pick-and-roll with Young.
Arkansas had a chance to finish off the game with a pair of 1-and-1 free throw opportunities with a two-point lead in the closing seconds, but both Young and Julysses Nobles missed their first attempts.
The Wolverines had the ball after the misses with 7.6 remaining. Following a timeout, Burke’s 3-point attempt over Nobles at the buzzer rimmed out to secure the win for the Razorbacks.
Mickelson and Rickey Scott each finished with 11 points for Arkansas, while Mardracus Wade added 12.
“They made some tough shots, but we also gave them some easy shots,” Morgan said. “When you give a good team with a great crowd momentum, it’s hard to stop them.”