FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Coty Clarke took a year to settle into his role at Arkansas after transferring from junior college.
The Razorbacks senior is doing his best to make the most of his final opportunities - hoping to lead Arkansas back to the NCAA tournament in the process.
Clarke once again showed how far he’s come in two seasons on Saturday, scoring a career-high 23 points as the Razorbacks held off Georgia for an 87-75 win.
The win was the second in two days for Arkansas (20-9, 9-7 Southeastern Conference) over one of the SEC’s top teams, following a win at Kentucky on Thursday night.
It was also the seventh in eight games for the surging Razorbacks, who have bounced back from a 2-6 start to conference play and appear to be closing in on their first postseason berth since 2008.
“They’re taking ownership of this team, and as a coach, when you’ve got leadership taking place and the ownership, all you’ve got to do is just stay out of the way,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “I hope I don’t screw it up.”
Michael Qualls added 20 points for Arkansas, giving the school 20 wins for the first time since the 2007-08 season - the last time it went to the NCAA tournament.
Kenny Gaines led the Bulldogs (16-12, 10-6) with 25 points, while Marcus Thornton had 13 and Brandon Morris 11.
Georgia had won six of seven games entering Saturday, but it hit just 8 of 28 (28.6 percent) in the second half as the Razorbacks rallied back from a seven-point first-half deficit for the convincing win.
“I thought their defense just finally got to us,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “Just sometimes the result of their press is not in a direct turnover or a steal; sometimes it just changes the rhythm or wears you down.”
Georgia, which defeated Arkansas in overtime on Jan. 18, led by as many as seven points in the first half - thanks to a remarkable shooting effort that saw the Bulldogs hit 13 of their first 16 shots.
Gaines led the way, connecting on his first five shots - including four 3-pointers - and finishing with 14 points in the first half.
After Nemanja Djurisic’s inside basket put Georgia up 35-28, however, the Razorbacks - fresh off their first win at Kentucky in 20 years less than 48 hours earlier - surged ahead.
They went on a 16-2 run to close out the first half and never trailed again.
“I don’t feel like anyone was satisfied with the Kentucky win,” Qualls said.