Arkansas tight end Jeremy Sprinkle speaks during ...
Hogs hold off Jaguars in Verizon
South Alabama's Antoine Allen (12) defends Arkansas' Rashad Madden (00) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in North Little Rock, Ark., Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. Arkansas defeated South Alabama 72-60. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
NORTH LITTLE ROCK The last time a Little Rock native played in Arkansas' annual game in Verizon Arena, it didn't go well for the Hogs. Alandise Harris scored 18 points to lead his Houston team to a win over the Razorbacks in Mike Anderson's first season.
But on Saturday, now-Razorback Harris and true freshman Bobby Portis did their home city proud, helping the Razorbacks hold off a pesky South Alabama team, 72-60, in front a crowd estimated at 10,000.
Verizon Arena has not always been kind to the Hogs, as Arkansas had lost games against Houston, Texas Tech, UAB, Illinois, and Oklahoma State in recent years, including a three-game losing streak from 2009-2011. When South Alabama pulled within 46-43 at the under 8:00 timeout, the crowd may have thought of such losses.
The Razorbacks responded with a 6-0 run, led by 5 points from Mardracus Wade, who finished with 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists without a turnover. Then, leading 54-47, the Razorbacks got 7 straight points from Michael Qualls to push the lead to 61-49, ending the Jaguars' upset bid.
Portis finished with a team-high 15 points, and added 6 rebounds on 6 of 7 shooting for the Razorbacks (9-2). Harris added 10 points and 6 rebounds, while Rashad Madden continued his recent hot streak with 12 points.
After a sluggish start against an aggressive South Alabama defense, the Razorbacks closed strong to take a 36-27 lead into the break. The Razorbacks closed the second half in similar fashion, outscoring the Jaguars (6-6) by a margin of 26-17 over the final 8 minutes.
The Hogs also got a highlight reel dunk from Michael Qualls with 5:17 left when Qualls (11 points) skied over a South Alabama defender for a one-handed dunk. It was the second of 3 dunks Qualls had for the game.
The Razorbacks shot 48 percent from the floor, but were crippled by just 5 of 17 from beyond the arc and 14 turnovers. The Hogs did force 20 turnovers and hold South Alabama to just 35 percent shooting, although the Jaguars hit 9 three-pointers.
South Alabama came in as one of the nation's more efficient rebounding teams, and it held Arkansas to just 4 offensive rebounds and won the rebounding battle 38-35.
Portis's 15 points are the most scored by a Little Rock native playing for the Razorbacks in Verizon Arena history.
Arkansas is off for Christmas and will return to action on Dec. 28 against High Point. The Hogs then close the non-conference schedule against Texas-San Antonio on Jan. 4. Both games are at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.