The free-throw line 15 feet from the basket can be the loneliest spot on the basketball court.
A game can be won or lost from the stripe, and on Saturday afternoon Texas experienced the latter result against Arkansas at the Toyota Center in Houston. The Longhorns shot 59.4 percent from the free throw line while the Razorbacks made 29-of-31 free throws to help seal the 77-74 victory.
Texas started the game hot and jumped out to a seven-point lead. Emotions flared early between the old Southwest Conference foes, causing sophomore guard Tevin Mack and Arkansas junior guard Jaylen Barford to exchange words after several possessions. Mack hit two threes and scored eight points in the opening half.
Freshman forward Jarrett Allen slammed down a huge dunk to help that run and finished the half with seven points. Texas went into the locker room up 35-30.
It was Arkansas’ turn to come out hot in the second half, but after five quick Razorback points Allen took control of the game. He made a veteran play in the low post to throw down a huge dunk and followed that with a deep two-point jumper to put Texas up by three.
But the Longhorns got into foul trouble early, and just five minutes into the second half the Razorbacks were in the bonus. They made six straight free throws to take their first lead of the game, and senior guard Dusty Hannahs hit a NBA-range three to give Arkansas a cushion they never relinquished.
Arkansas went on top by as many as nine points midway through the second half, but Texas fought back behind four straight defensive stops and solid play from Andrew Jones. The freshman guard drove through the Arkansas defense and converted an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the game at 61-61 with 4:41 left to play.
However, missed free throws and turnovers by Texas sparked a 10-2 scoring run for the Razorbacks and gave them an eight-point lead with two minutes remaining in the game.
But another wave of momentum sparked by Mack gave the Longhorns a chance to steal the win. Mack turned his own missed free throw into a deep three-pointer, hit a jumper from the field and helped the Texas defense make big stops and force a Razorback turnover. He hit his fourth three of the game to cut the lead to three with 16 seconds remaining, but clutch free throw shooting down the stretch from Arkansas clinched the win.
Mack finished with team-highs in scoring (20) and rebounds (12). He and the Longhorns will return to action on Wednesday to face off with the University of Alabama-Birmingham in Austin at 7 p.m.