FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Texas coach Rick Barnes can think of one way to improve the Big 12.
Just add Arkansas.
Michael Washington scored 22 points, including a driving dunk in the final minute, and the Razorbacks beat the seventh-ranked Longhorns 67-61 Tuesday night. Arkansas has now beaten two top 10 teams from the Big 12 this season. The Hogs knocked off then-No. 4 Oklahoma last week.
“I said coming up here — this school should be in the Big 12. That’s where they should be,” Barnes said after the game. “It would make our league better. It would be better for them. Why they’re not, I can’t answer that. But it would be great, because this is what it’s about.”
The Razorbacks led their former Southwest Conference rivals 62-61 when their play appeared to break down with the 6-foot-9 Washington holding the ball near the top of the key. He was able to beat his man off the dribble, though, and suddenly had a clear path to the basket. He was fouled as he dunked with 22.5 seconds left, then made the free throw to put Arkansas (12-1) ahead by four.
A.J. Abrams then missed three straight shots at the other end, and Stefan Welsh added a breakaway layup to finish the scoring.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you we’re better than Texas, because I don’t know if I believe that,” Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. “But we didn’t have to be tonight just to win the basketball game.”
Arkansas lost its top five scorers from last season’s team that made the second round of the NCAA tournament, but the Razorbacks have been one of the nation’s most surprising teams in 2008-09. They’ve won 10 in a row for the first time since 1995, the year after their national championship.
Welsh scored 20 points for Arkansas. Damion James led Texas (11-3) with 17.
The Longhorns went 1-of-14 from 3-point range. Abrams scored only seven points on 3-of-16 shooting.
“Same shots I’ve been hitting all year,” Abrams said. “Tonight I just wasn’t knocking them in. It was just a tough night.”
Texas played without 6-foot-10 senior Connor Atchley, who split his tongue in Friday night’s win over Appalachian State.
Texas was making its first visit to Fayetteville since 1991, when the Longhorns and Arkansas played in the Southwest Conference. The Razorbacks are in the Southeastern Conference now, but the old rivalry is still alive.
Last year, Texas was sent to North Little Rock for the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Barnes joked that he’d cancel this year’s trip to Fayetteville if the fans weren’t nice to his team, but the Arkansas folks booed Texas anyway during its two games.
Tuesday night’s crowd included former Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton, and the fans were into it from the start. The action was intense in the first half, although neither team shot well.
Texas led 31-27 after a first half in which the teams combined to shoot 1-of-20 from 3-point range. After the players left the court, a young woman wearing jeans and a T-shirt came out and made about five 3-pointers in a 20-second span as part of a halftime competition.
Abrams went scoreless in the first half, and Washington was limited to nine minutes because of foul trouble.
“Coming out at halftime, we just felt like if we could run any offense at all we might have a chance,” Pelphrey said. “It wasn’t much easier in the second half.”
The Longhorns led 52-46 before Washington’s desperation 3-pointer with the shot clock running down hit the rim, bounced high in the air and then dropped in. That shot started an 11-0 run for the Razorbacks, and they took the lead when Marcus Monk’s nice pass inside set up Washington’s dunk. Courtney Fortson’s driving three-point play made it 57-52.
Texas fought back to tie it at 57, but Welsh’s 3-pointer from in front of the Arkansas bench put the Razorbacks back ahead.
“After beating Oklahoma, we knew we could come out and play anybody,” Welsh said. “And we proved that.”