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 bounce back
Freshman gives UA huge jolt in home win
NWA Media/MICHAEL WOODS --02/02/2013-- Arkansas guard BJ Young pulls up for a three-point shot during the second half of Saturday afternoon's game against Tennessee at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson figured the Razorbacks needed an injection of energy against Tennessee, so he gave 6-5 freshman Michael Qualls his first start.
Qualls worked better than a performance-enhancing drug, making plays all over the court in his 32 minutes and keeping his teammates and the fans fired up as the Razorbacks beat the Volunteers 73-60 Saturday before an announced crowd of 14,029 at Walton Arena.
“His really gave us a high energy level,” Anderson said. “His energy was contagious, and it just spread throughout our team.
“What people don’t realize, he may be 6-5 in size, but his arm length makes him about 6-11.”
Qualls finished with 7 points, 11 rebounds and 2 steals.
“He brought a lot of stuff - toughness, rebounding, athleticism,” said Arkansas sophomore guard BJ Young, who scored 25 points off the bench. “I’ve kind of been telling the coaches all year that if we had him in at [small forward] instead of [power forward], he could just run around crazy and grab a lot of boards because he really wouldn’t be able to be boxed out by those bigger guys, and it worked today.”
Qualls didn’t find out he was in the lineup until a few minutes before tip off, when the Razorbacks (13-8, 4-4 SEC) came back into the locker room after warm-ups and he saw his name on a board with the other starters.
“I was surprised,” Qualls said. “BJ told me I had some big shoes to fill, so I just tried to keep up his energy and basically hold it down for the team and for when he came in. I just wanted to come out and produce for the team.I wanted to get as many boards as possible and play lockup D.”
Anderson said Qualls didn’t show any nervousness.
“You could just see, man. His eyes were lit up and he was ready,” Anderson said. “He wasn’t in awe or anything about it. He took his practice to the game.
“That tells me he’s in tune with what is taking place with this basketball team. We’re playing a tremendous brand of defense.”
Qualls’ defensive intensity helped the Razorbacks outscore the Vols 27-5 in points off turnovers. Tennessee had 20 turnovers while the Razorbacks had eight. They made 29 of 60 shots (48.3 percent) and the Vols made 21 of 48 (43.8 percent).
“I thought we were locked in from the get-go,” Anderson said. “Our defense was in lanes, touching balls. We were making other guys make decisions that don’t normally make decisions.”
Sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes led Tennessee (11-9, 3-5) with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but he also had 4 turnovers as the Razorbacks surrounded him whenever he touched the ball.
“They did a great job of double-teaming me and coming from different sides,” Stokes said. “Their guys were very active when it comes to defense. We let the pressure get to us.”
No Razorback was more active than Qualls, whose highlight play was beating Stokes for the rebound off a missed free throw by Marshawn Powell and dunking to give Arkansas a 54-41 lead with 8:41 left.
“He made a play,” Anderson said. “That’s what players do.”
Qualls said he was talking to Stokes as they stood next to each other and may have distracted him.
“I think he wasn’t ready, or he didn’t see the ball go up,” Qualls said. “I just pushed him under [the basket] and he kind of flopped a little bit. He’s like a 300-pound guy, and I’m a smooth 200 pushing him down like that?
“I think it gave the crowd a big boost and helped us.”
Stokes, listed at 6-8 and 270 pounds, then got his own dunk off a missed free throw,but that only pulled the Vols within 60-51 with 4:35 left.
Sophomore guard Ky Madden then hit a three-pointer and Young scored six points in the final 1:17 on a 15-foot jump shot, two free throws and a layup to make sure the Razorbacks stayed in control.
Powell, a junior forward, finished with 12 points and fouled out in 26 minutes. Sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson added 10 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals in 24 minutes off the bench.
The Razorbacks outscored the Vols 14-2 during a 4:04 stretch to take a 31-20 lead with 2:55 left in the first half. Tennessee didn’t draw closer than seven points the rest of the game.
Tennessee junior guard Jordan McRae, who came into the game averaging 18.9 points in SEC play, scored 6 points on2-of-11 shooting.
“I thought they did a solid job of guarding him, keeping bodies on him off the dribble as opposed to letting him get catch-and-shoot shots,” Vols Coach Cuonzo Martin said.
Martin said he was impressed by what Qualls did in his first start.
“He competes, plays with energy,” Martin said. “I thought that was a good move for them.”
Qualls had 9 points and 6 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench in the Razorbacks’ 59-56 loss at Alabama on Thursday night, giving Anderson the idea to start him.
“I see where he’s coming from,” Anderson said. “He’s starting to give us some quality minutes. He’s starting to pick it up. The things I’m preaching about, he’s bringing to the table.”
Sports, Pages 21 on 02/03/2013