Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Hogs huff, puff to defeat 2-9 foe
Arkansas guard Rashad Madden, (00), dunks the ball during the first half of a NCAA college basketball game against Savannah State, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson turned 54 on Thursday, and all he wanted for his birthday was a victory over Savannah State.
He got his wish, of course, but the first half of Arkansas’ 72-43 victory might have accelerated Anderson’s aging process.
The Razorbacks led 27-25 against a 2-9 Savannah State team ranked 351 of 351 in ESPN’s Ratings Percentage Index - a computer ranking which uses a team’s record and strength of schedule - and was winless against Division I opponents.
“I was maturing,” Anderson said with a smile afterward, not quite ready to apply for Social Security. “It was one of those games where you’ve got to figure it out.”
The Razorbacks (7-2) figured it out in the second half when they outscored the Tigers 45-18 before an announced crowd of 5,654 at Walton Arena, winning their 20th consecutive home game.
Arkansas took control by shooting 50 percent from the field (17 of 34) and outrebounding the Tigers 30-14 in the second half.
“In the second half we imposed our will, and I thought Savannah State wore down,” Anderson said. “In the first half I thought we just kind of stood around and watched guys shoot jump shots.
“There was much more movement with purpose in the second half, and that enabled us to get in a rhythm. I always say shooting is rhythm, and when you move the ball and guys are attacking, that puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
The Razorbacks shot 35.7 percent (10 of 28) and were outrebounded 21-18 in the first half.
“I just feel like we came out dead,” said junior guard Ky Madden, who led the Razorbacks with a career-high 21 points. “The second half we turned it around. … Our defense got us going.”
Arkansas freshman forward Bobby Portis said the name on the opponent’s uniform contributed to the Razorbacks’ sluggish start.
“I think we took them lightly, because it’s Savannah State,” Portis said. “That’s really what it was.”
The Razorbacks had six fast-break points in the first half. “We just didn’t get up and pressure the ball like we usually do,” Arkansas senior guard Rickey Scott said. “We let them just pass the ball around and run the shot clock down.”
Arkansas outscored Savannah State 41-14 in the final 16:51.
“We were able to make shots, but once fatigue set in, it was kind of difficult for us to execute,” Savannah State Coach Horace Broadnax said. “And they got their rhythm, started killing us on the glass and knocking down nice little jump shots.”
Broadnax’s Tigers are 0-3 against Anderson-coached teams — two at Arkansas and one at Missouri.
“He’s got a process. He’s got a system,” Broadnax said. “It’s about continuing to put the pressure on us and wearing us down.”
Arkansas sophomore forward Michael Qualls, who came into the game averaging team-highs of 15.8 points and 5.9 rebounds, didn’t play in the first half because he was late to a practice. He started the second half and finished with seven points and four rebounds.
Portis had 10 points and a career-high 11 rebounds and senior forward Coty Clarke had 8 points and 10 rebounds. Scott had seven points off the bench. Senior guard Deven Williams and freshman guard Alante Fenner led the Tigers with 10 points each.
“It was a grinding game, it was at their pace,” Anderson said of the Razorbacks’ first-half struggles. “Then we came out in the second half and got into our defense and got them playing the way we want to play.
“All of a sudden they started taking a little quicker shots, we had a run where they lost the ball a couple of times and were able to finish.”
Anderson improved to 2-0 as a head coach on his birthday.
“I told my guys that my birthday wish first of all was to get a W, and they got that,” Anderson said. “So congrats to those guys.
“It wasn’t easy looking at that first half. Savannah State had something to do with it. They controlled the tempo, but our guys kind of hung in there until we got a great run going in the second half.”
Game sketch RECORDS Arkansas 7-2, Savannah State 2-9 STARS Arkansas junior guard Ky Madden (career-high 21 points) and freshman forward Bobby Portis (10 points, career-high 11 rebounds) TURNING POINT The Razorbacks outscored the Tigers 17-4 over a 7:54 span to take a 48-33 with 8:54 left.
KEY STAT Arkansas shot 50 percent (17 of 34) from the field in the second half.
UP NEXT Arkansas plays Tennessee-Martin at 7 p.m. Thursday in Walton Arena.
- Bob Holt
Sports, Pages 21 on 12/13/2013