If there was a defining moment for Moses Kingsley in the NCAA Tournament, it with 17:41 left in Arkansas’ opening game in the NCAA Tournament.
Seton Hall’s Desi Rodriguez was sailing along down the lane for what he assumed was going to be a fairly routine dunk.
He obviously didn’t know Kingsley.
“Coach says you gotta protect the paint,” Moses said later.
Rodriguez had his dunk blocked and Kingsley didn’t let the ball hit the floor. Rodriguez bounced a third of the way down the lane but Kingsley didn’t foul and it sparked the Hogs to a 77-71 win.
“That was the turning point for us,” forward Jaylen Barford said after the game.
Kingsley had a huge game.
He hit 10-of-13 field goals including a 3-pointer, two-of-two at the free throw line, grabbed six rebounds, had four blocked shots, two assists and a steal.
“We didn’t want to go home,” he said. “My team’s looking for me to bring it in games like this and I think that’s what I did.”
That may have been an understatement.
But it’s what Dusty Hannahs has seen for years from the native Nigerian who played on the Arkansas Wings AAU team with Hannahs.
“I’ve played with Moses since the 10th grade and he’s just grown as a player every year that I’ve ever been around him,” Hannahs said. “Now it’s almost peak Moses.”
Mike Anderson agreed.
“I don’t know what happened to Moses, but he awakened today and he was big,” Mike Anderson said later.
The Pirates came into the game as one of the leading rebounding teams in the country and got up by 8 on Arkansas in the second half with 9:29 to play.
No panic from the Hogs. That’s due partly to Anderson, who has had a finger on the pulse of this team most of the time this year.
“At the end they were locked in,” Anderson said of his team. “Fatigue was a factor in this game. Sometimes when fatigue happens, your decision-making is not as quick.”
For Seaton Hall, it played exactly the way Anderson expected it.
“Early in the game they were attacking us and getting to the basket, whipping that ball around,” he said. “As the game went on, they kinda slowed down on those decisions. Our guys were in that moment.”
When the Razorbacks fell behind, Anderson took a timeout.
“We had to settle down and get back to what we were doing in the first half,” he said. “We lost our composure. You win games with defense and we went offensive-minded, so we started trying to do it individually and I told our guys that’s not who we are.”
“Once we got some baskets, we went right inside to Moses — we went in to the bellcow — and he delivered for us, he made some big buckets, got to the free-throw line, now we get Delgado in foul trouble, so it was an effort of let’s establish inside and it’s amazing how that opens up the outside and, of course, now you get to the free-throw line,” Anderson said.
“We thought we could go off the dribble with those guys and it really came in handy in those times — it’s a game of runs — so we had a run to come back at ’em.”
The other reason nobody was too worried was the way this team has played all year.
“We are a second-half team,” Anderson said.
The biggest difference was the Hogs winning the turnover battle in the second half.
“It’s funny because in the first half we only got 2 points off turnovers and I think we missed about five layup opportunities, whether we charged or not make the right decision, or they make a great play and block it,” Anderson said. “In the second half, once we sped ’em up or tuned ’em over, we made better decisions.”
He knows that’s usually the way it works for this team. When it’s all clicking, they are getting the turnovers.
“Today, we needed that,” he said. “We had 12 steals and we needed that because they were just attacking us on the glass. They had 21 offensive rebounds and you don’t win those kind of games unless you change the possessions some kind of way and that was the difference in the game today.”
In the end, it was a win, which allows Arkansas to advance.
“It was a good win for us,” Anderson said. “Looking forward to advance.”
Even if it’s against North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the South Region.
But more on that later.
Considering how few wins the Hogs have lately in the NCAA, this one should be enjoyed.
At least for a night.