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March 9, 2007

Ervin's layup sends Vandy home

ATLANTA, Georgia-Arkansas' Gary Ervin hit a driving layup with 11.3 seconds left to give Arkansas a 72-71 victory over Vanderbilt in the quarterfinal round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in the Georgia Dome. Arkansas' victory eliminated Vandy from the tournament, and marked the Razorbacks' second win over the Commodores within a week.

Vandy played from behind much of the day, and on the previous possession, the Commodores (20-11, 10-7) had taken a one-point lead after blowing an eight-point second-half lead moments earlier. On an out-of-bounds play, Alex Gordon found a wide-open Ross Neltner under the bucket for a layup with 29.6 seconds left.

But Ervin, who had scored just four points until the final bucket, answered Neltner's basket when he dribbled to the lane, got around Jermaine Beal with a spin move, and threw in a short shot to give the Razorbacks (20-12, 8-9 SEC) the lead.

Vandy had one final chance when Derrick Byars drove the middle of the floor and found a wide-open Shan Foster on the left side. But Foster missed the shot, and after the ball was tipped around, and Arkansas player secured the rebound as time expired.

"They made one more play than we did," said Vandy coach Kevin Stallings. "But we would take that same look that we got there again. Derrick made a great play getting it to Shan, and we'd take that same look again with the game on the line, and be pretty sure that Shan would make it.

"We congratulate Arkansas on the way they played, and even in defeat, it was a great game."

Arkansas seized the lead early, and hung on to that lead until midway through the second half. Just after the Commodores took a 13-11 lead on Alan Metcalfe's bucket off an in-bounds pass, Arkansas went on an 11-0 run to build a 22-13 lead they would hold for the remainder of the half.

Derrick Byars, who scored 10 points in the first half, led a Commodore charge to cut the lead to 33-29 at the break on a dunk in transition off an assist from Jermaine Beal.

The Razorbacks surged out to a 44-36 second-half lead on a Sonny Weems put-back, but a 7-0 run capped by Foster's 3 later tied the game at 48.

The lead quickly changed hands twice, then with Vandy trailing 52-51, the Commodores went on a 9-0 run that ended on Jermaine Beal's 3.

That's when Arkansas' guard Patrick Beverley and physical Razorback presence inside took the game over during an 18-7 run that gave the West's five-seed a 70-67 lead. Beverly started the run with a pair of free throws, two more foul shots, then hit a layup and a free throw after being fouled on the shot, then a 3 from the left side to give his team a 69-67 lead.

Darian Townes added a free throw, setting the stage for a pair of Foster free throws that pulled Vandy within one and set the stage for the game's ending.

Byars led Vandy with 15 points, and Beverley's 18 was a game high. Foster (13) and Dan Cage added double-figures for Vandy. Weems (17) and Charles Thomas (11) joined Beverley in double-figure scoring for Arkansas.

Vanderbilt will return home to Nashville and await its pairing in next week's NCAA Tournament. Arkansas faces Mississippi State, who beat Kentucky in its quarterfinal matchup earlier on Friday, on Saturday afternoon.


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