Brazile’s late dive lifts Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE — In Trevon Brazile’s first season at the University of Arkansas after transferring from Missouri, the 6-10 sophomore has garnered national attention rising above the rim for highlight dunks.

But it was Brazile’s dive onto the field at the Lahaina (Hawaii) Civic Center on Wednesday night that helped the No. 9 Razorbacks come back to beat No. 17 San Diego State 78-74 in overtime in the third-place game of the Maui invitees.

The Aztecs led 67–65 with 13 seconds left after Arkansas freshman point guard Anthony Black made two free throws.

San Diego junior guard Lamont Bradley was given the entry pass and ambushed by Brazile and Black.

When Bradley lost the ball, Brazile dove for it, made a steal and called timeout with 7.5 seconds left.

“I’m a little surprised [Bradley] did not call a timeout,” Brazile said at a post-game press conference. “He was in a bad situation. He was fiddling with the ball.

“I’m surprised his coach didn’t call a time-out. … We’ve got the ball. Kamani [Johnson] made a great game, and then we went from there.”

Johnson, a senior forward, was tipped off at the buzzer of a missed driving attempt by Black to tie the score at 67–67 and send the game to overtime.

Darrion Trammell’s three-pointer gave San Diego State a 70-69 lead in overtime, but Ricky Council’s jumper put Arkansas ahead to go 71-70 with 3:39 left in overtime.

Johnson, who had a rebound basket to give the Razorbacks a 75-73 lead, took the win by making two free throws with 3.7 seconds left for the final 78-74 margin and then stole the inbounds pass of the Aztecs.

Arkansas (5-1) rallied after trailing by a whopping 13 points in the first half and going 45-34 with 14:27 left in regulation.

“I mean, you always worry when you’re down by double digits,” said Brazile, who had 20 points and nine rebounds. “But I kept pushing the guys together and telling them, ‘We’ve got to keep fighting, we’ve got to stay in it.’

“It’s an older team. We prepared hard for them. We were well prepared, but we knew it was going to be a fight.”

Council, a junior guard who played all 40 minutes in No. 10 Creighton’s 90-87 victory over Arkansas on Tuesday night, missed his first seven shots against San Diego State — including a dunk attempt.

“I was about to take him out and try to give him a rest,” Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said on the Arkansas postgame radio show. “But he said, ‘Give me another chance, coach. I’m still here. My legs are fine.’”

Council, who scored 15 points in Arkansas’ 80-54 victory over Louisville Monday in the first round of the Maui Invitational and 24 against Creighton, finally got his first basket against San Diego State on a three-point play with 14:03 left that drew the Razorbacks inside 45-37 to start their rally.

Council finished with 19 points in 41 minutes, hitting 6 of 19 shots and 7 of 11 free throws.

Black had 15 points after combining 52 against Louisville and Creighton. His average score of 22.3 led the Maui Invitational and he was named to the all-tournament team.

“I thought in the first half it looked like we didn’t have the energy we normally play with,” Musselman said at a press conference after the game. “San Diego State, with their veterans and how well they are coached, I thought in the first half it seemed like they were a team that knew their roles a little bit better. We are still trying to figure out who we are.

“We thought maybe someone from the bench hadn’t played [Tuesday night] could have an impact and of course Kamani Johnson was absolutely incredible in the last 19 minutes of the game.”

Johnson, who did not play in the tournament until coming off the bench with 14:25 left on the rules against San Diego State, finished with 7 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals.

“It just shows how strong a team we are,” Johnson said on the Arkansas radio show about the comeback. “That’s an older team, so Coach said it’s going to be a game just like Creighton’s.

“We prepared for it, we got knocked down, but that just showed me that our young guys are not going to stop. Our whole team is not going to stop. That will definitely help us going into March.”

San Diego State opened the tournament with an 88-77 win over Ohio State, losing to No. 14 Arizona 87-70 to get a matchup with Arkansas.

“That was a great basketball game,” said Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher at a press conference. “Two teams on tired legs finding a way to wipe it out.

“It was exciting. We would have liked to have closed better, of course.”

Dutcher said he informed Bradley before his critical turnover that the Aztecs had a timeout to call if necessary and would also maintain possession in a jump ball situation.

“So obviously if he had been tied up, he might have been able to hold onto it and get a jump ball,” Dutcher said. “Maybe I could have come down the sideline and taken a time-out.

“I thought he was probably going to foul or worst case a tethered ball. They ended up making a play and securing the ball. So that’s a credit to the Arkansas press at the end.

“That height and athleticism paid off.”

Brazile said the Razorbacks were focused on coming back one at a time on offense and defense.

“The coach always tells us, ‘We live and die on every possession,'” said Brazile. “So those last two, three minutes of regulation, we were just live and die on every possession.”

San Diego State led for 33:47 of the game to 8:52 for Arkansas. There were 10 lead changes and five ties.

“Look, the San Diego State coaching staff did a fantastic job in my opinion,” Musselman, who as Nevada coach had a 3-8 record against the Aztecs in Mountain West games, said during the post-game press conference. “They controlled the game for most of the game. We did just enough to hang out.”

Musselman said the game reminded him of his days as NBA head coach at Golden State and Sacramento.

“It’s not often that a game has an NBA feel the way it ended, but that’s how a lot of NBA games end,” he said. “You keep talking to your team about, ‘Hang in there, stick around.’ In the end you try to get two or three stops in a row.”

The biggest stop in Arkansas was provided by Brazile, who for a change went down for a bargain instead of way up for a dunk.

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