FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Vanderbilt's road success this season wasn't enough to overcome Arkansas' seeming home invincibility.
Despite 19 points from John Jenkins, the Commodores (16-6, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) fell behind in the second half and never recovered in an 84-72 loss to the Razorbacks on Tuesday night.
Vanderbilt had won 11 of 12 entering the game and had a 4-1 road record. The Commodores led 40-37 in the second half before the Razorbacks (16-6, 4-3) used six of their nine 3-pointers to start a 22-6 run that put the game away.
"They came out in the second half and hit us in the mouth early and that was the key, I think," Jenkins said. "They got a lot of shots in that big run and we just couldn't respond."
The Commodores led 34-32 at halftime behind 10 points from Festus Ezeli, who scored 21 points in his last game, against Middle Tennessee. He scored nine straight points at one point to start an 11-0 run that put Vanderbilt up 29-25.
The Commodores shot 52 percent (13 of 25) in the half and kept Arkansas' big men in foul trouble, but they were still outrebounded 19-15 in the half and 36-29 for the game.
"I thought the difference in the game was their team speed," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "I thought that they were faster and quicker than we were, and they utilized that to their advantage — especially on the offensive end."
Jeffery Taylor added 18 for the Commodores, while Ezeli finished with 14 and Steve Tchiengang had 10.
Rickey Scott had 18 points as Arkansas moved to 16-0 in Bud Walton Arena and equaled its best start to open a season in Fayetteville since the 1993-94 national championship team had the same home mark for the entire season. Only that team and the 1997-98 team have gone undefeated at home since the arena opened in 1993.
"I think it's been like that, you've got to protect the home (court)," Scott said. "Every team is like that; you're going to protect the house.
"It's just natural to us."
The Commodores led 40-37 before Arkansas' Hunter Mickelson stepped back and made the first 3-pointer of his career to tie the game. Mickelson was 0 of 2 on 3-point attempts before that, but the make started a stretch where Arkansas hit six of seven field goals from behind the arc.
That led to a 59-46 lead, and Vanderbilt was unable to get closer than seven points after that.
Five players finished in double figures for the Razorbacks, while Mickelson added nine points in 11 minutes before fouling out. That included consecutive baskets in the second half to put Arkansas up 71-57, the first of which was a two-handed dunk after a spin move past Ezeli.
"We should have come out the gate firing on all cylinders, but sometimes that doesn't happen," Mickelson said. "Like I said, we're all versatile and anybody can start it at any time. We've been doing that throughout the whole year, so (hopefully) we can keep it up."
Julysses Nobles added 17 points for the Razorbacks, who entered the game with home wins over two ranked teams this season: then-No. 15 Mississippi State and then-No. 20 Michigan. They used big first-half runs in both of those wins, but didn't follow that script in falling behind 40-37 early in the second half.
This time, Arkansas pulled away with its 3-point barrage — equaling its SEC-best with nine 3s. Nobles finished with three of the 3s, while Scott and Mardracus Wade each hit two during the 22-6 stretch that put the Razorbacks up 59-46.
BJ Young also hit a 3-pointer during the run and finished with 12 points. Wade and Ky Madden added 10 points apiece as Arkansas did its best to start making a legitimate case for a return to the NCAA tournament after missing it the last three seasons.
"I thought this team grew up tonight," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought we grew up in a lot of areas, just from the standpoint of how hard you've got to play. Not only how hard you've got to play, but playing together."