Tuesday night, Michael Qualls was faster than a speeding bullet and leaped over a tall defender in a single bound. The 6-foot-6 Arkansas sophomore saved the day and maybe the season for the Razorbacks. All he was missing was a cape.
Qualls raced across the baseline, went high for a rebound and slammed the put-back home with .2 seconds to give the Razorbacks a 87-85 overtime win against No. 13 Kentucky. The incredible dunk whipped the Bud Walton Arena crowd into a frenzy and left UK coach John Calipari speechless (Which doesn’t happen often).
“It was an unbelievable finish,” Arkansas
coach Mike Anderson told the media following the game. “He just came out of nowhere. It was fortunate for us he was playing for the Razorbacks.”
In two seasons, Qualls has earned a reputation as one of the great leapers in college basketball. Tuesday night he dunked himself right into Razorback lore. The shot will be remembered with some of the great all-time Hog stuffs and buzzer-beaters in general.
“Crashing the boards in that type of situation is the best time to crash the boards,” Qualls told me the media after the game. “They forget about you. I just saw an opportunity and took it.”
Qualls’ late-game heroics will be even more fondly remembered by Hog fans if Arkansas can parlay this win into a winning streak and earn an NCAA Tournament berth.
I said in this space Monday if the Hogs lost to Kentucky their tournament hopes could be snuffed. After blowing a lead late against Florida Saturday, the Hogs were in danger of blowing another chance for an upset.
Now, they have a signature win and some momentum thanks to Qualls’ posterizing heroics.