In the lane:
Hogs put on show at home
Arkansas' Alandise Harris, left, tries to get around South Alabama's Augustine Rubit the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in North Little Rock, Ark., Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Arkansas’ two players from Little Rock provided a spark for the home crowd Saturday night.
Freshman forward Bobby Portis had a team-high 15 points and six rebounds and junior forward Alandise Harris added 10 points and six rebounds in Arkansas’ 72-60 victory over South Alabama.
Portis lit up the hometown crowd late in the first half by scoring nine consecutive points in a span of 2:30 during an 11-0 run.
“It was a great feeling when they called my name out,” Portis said. “I was so pumped up at the beginning of the game.”
Portis powered in down the left baseline to open the blitz, scored on a layup off a pass from Mardracus Wade, then hit a three-pointer from the top of the key, all in a stretch of 1:37. A minute later, he faked a pass to approaching teammate Anthlon Bell on the left wing, causing his defender to stop just long enough for Portis to charge past him for a layup.
The streak helped Arkansas break away from a 21-18 lead to a 34-22 advantage.
Harris was in a hurry to impress his hometown fans after checking in at the 14:45 mark. He quickly began trying to power his way to the rim but missed a shot on one possession, committed a turnover, then was charged with a foul while battling for an offensive rebound.
Harris finally settled in, converting a three-point play after driving to the basket, then hitting a three-point shot.
“I wouldn’t say I was forcing it,” Harris said. “I just feel I was being aggressive like [Coach Mike Anderson] told me to be. It’s either going to be a foul or I go score.”
Wade weighs in
Senior guard Mardracus Wade made a pair of free throws at the 7:59 mark of the second half to put Arkansas ahead 48-43 and end a long scoring drought.
Wade hit a three-pointer 30 seconds later, his first since Dec. 3 against Southeastern Louisiana. His five points tied the amount he had scored in the last seven games, including two in which he didn’t play.
Wade logged 19 minutes, his second-highest total of the season.
“I think Wade wants to help this team win,” Coach Mike Anderson said. “I think he does some things that can really make us even a more dangerous team, because he can be a tremendous defensive player, a guy that can touch the ball, can harass and he can knock down open shots.”Impressed
South Alabama Coach Matthew Graves was impressed enough with Arkansas to call the Hogs the best team his Jaguars have played.
That includes Gonzaga, which beat South Alabama 68-59. The Zags also beat Arkansas 91-81.
“Even though Gonzaga won against Arkansas, I felt that Arkansas’ ability to switch a lot of ball screens and their length would really stretch us and challenge us,” Graves said.
“Obviously looking at the turnovers and shooting percentage, it did that.”
South Alabama committed 20 turnovers, 7.5 more than its average, and shot 35.1 percent, which was more than 5 percentage points below its average of 40.7 percent.
Michael Qualls, Arkansas’ leading scorer, was having a pretty tame game until a surge in the closing minutes that included a three-point play on a power drive, a pair of free throws and a thunderous one-handed dunk that drew the biggest reaction of the night from the crowd.
Later, after South Alabama gambled while scrambling on defense, Qualls broke free for an uncontested dunk, after which he appeared to be holding his elbow gingerly.
“He probably dunked too hard,” Coach Mike Anderson said. “He’s fine.”Taking charge
Three Razorbacks - Coty Clarke, Fred Gulley and Kikko Haydar - took charging calls in the first nine minutes. The defensive stops, which are recorded as turnovers by South Alabama, helped the Hogs when they were struggling to score. It would be the only charges Arkansas drew on the night.
The Arkansas reserves outscored their counterparts 27-10, led by 10 points from Alandise Harris and five points from Mardracus Wade. The bench disparity started early, with the Razorbacks outscoring South Alabama 15-3 off the bench in the first half.
Arkansas’ Rickey Scott had to leave the game at the 13:52 mark of the second half when he took an inadvertent elbow to the nose from Dionte Ferguson, which knocked Scott to the court for a minute. Scott recovered well enough to return, but he did not get back in the game.
Sports, Pages 26 on 12/22/2013