By CHIP SOUZA , Associated Press
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Keyshawn Embery-Simpson scored 14 second-half points to help Arkansas rally past Austin Peay 76-65 on Friday in the final nonconference game of the season for both teams.
Embery-Simpson fueled a 20-5 Arkansas run that turned a 52-48 deficit into a 68-57 Razorback advantage. Embery-Simpson scored 12 during the run, including seven straight Arkansas points, and capped the rally with a 3-pointer with 4:12 left in the game. Embery-Simpson finished with all 14 of his points in the second half.
The Razorbacks (9-3) battled through foul trouble and a scrappy Austin Peay team that outrebounded Arkansas 42-34.
The Governors (8-5) led 50-46 midway through the second half when Arkansas’ leading scorer, Daniel Gafford, landed awkwardly in the lane and hit the floor with a right ankle injury. Gafford was helped to the bench and went to the locker room for a brief period before returning to the game. His dunk off a Reggie Chaney feed gave the Razorbacks the lead for good at 54-52.
Gafford led the Razorbacks with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Jabari McGee helped the Governors rally to pull within 68-62, scoring five of his 10 points, but the Razorbacks locked down the win on Jalen Harris’ 3-pointer from the left wing, just his fourth 3-pointer of the season in almost 30 attempts, giving Arkansas a 71-62 lead with 1:48 left.
Arkansas led 34-33 at halftime as Isaiah Joe scored 12 of his 15 points including four 3-pointers. Joe, who sat out the final 4:34 of the first half after picking up two fouls in the span of 21 seconds, hit his first three 3-point attempts, then later drilled his fourth to give the Razorbacks a 26-23 lead with 7:08 left in the first half.
Austin Peay took a 29-28 lead on a pair of free throws by Terry Taylor and could have extended the lead further, but missed the front end of three straight one-and-ones in the final minutes of the half.
The Governors took their last lead of the half on Chris Porter-Bunton’s 3-pointer from the top of the key that gave them a 33-32 lead.
Jordan Phillips gave Arkansas back the lead with a pair of free throws with 48 seconds left in the half.
Arkansas dropped a pair of home games to Western Kentucky and Georgia Tech and was on the verge of another home loss before the second-half rally. The Razorbacks were able to pull this one out and will carry that momentum into the start of Southeastern Conference play when they return from the holiday break.
Austin Peay: The Governors are off until Thursday when they host Eastern Kentucky in the Ohio Valley Conference opener.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks return to action on Jan. 5 when they open SEC play on the road at Texas A&M.