Late surge propels Hogs over Cajuns

By: Adam Ford
Published: Friday, November 15, 2013
Arkansas' Michael Qualls (24) goes up for the basket against Louisiana-Lafayette in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark., Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)
Arkansas' Michael Qualls (24) goes up for the basket against Louisiana-Lafayette in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark., Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)

— When NBA scouts show up to watch a nonconference basketball game at Bud Walton Arena, it's easy to assume that they are watching a Razorbacks player. That wasn't the case on Friday night.

The Razorbacks (2-0) defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 76-63, but not before the Ragin' Cajuns' junior point guard Elfrid Payton scored 27 points to keep the game close until the final moments before a crowd of 9,042.

Payton, who came onto scouts' radar in the spring when he played on the USA's U-19 team coached by Florida's Billy Donovan, was almost unstoppable for the Ragin' Cajuns (2-1), but it was the Razorbacks that had the final burst.

The Razorbacks got strong performances from Alandise Harris, who scored a game-high 19 points, Michael Qualls (16 points, 8 rebounds), and Bobby Portis (14 points). It was Qualls' second straight game with 16 points, and he now leads the team in scoring for the season so far.

The game didn't start well for the Razorbacks, who trailed 4-0 and then 11-4 early in the game before they finally got things rolling. Arkansas' early priority became attacking ULL's dangerous forward Shawn Long, who was averaging 26 points and 14.5 rebounds in two games. Alandise Harris scored 15 of his points in the first half and drew a couple of fouls on Long, relegating him to the bench for much of the second half.

Arkansas took the lead for the first time with under 5 minutes left in the first half, and Jacorey Williams' floater just before halftime gave the Hogs a 39-38 lead at the break.

The Razorbacks had a better start to the second half, pulling ahead as much as 45-40 before ULL came storming back. Long's layup with 6:09 left gave the Ragin' Cajuns their final lead at 60-59. After that, Qualls and the Hog defense took over.

Qualls scored 6 points over the final six minutes and the Hogs forced 6 turnovers and a player control foul to end the game on a 17-3 run.

Junior guard Rashad Madden, who set out the two exhibition games and last week's season-opener, entered the game midway through the first half and provided an instant spark. He finished with 3 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists with a single turnover. His biggest contribution--his tough defense of Payton--didn't make it onto the stat sheet.

Senior Coty Clarke was limited by foul trouble, eventually fouling out, and scored just 3 points on 1 of 2 from the floor, although he did play long enough to record 6 rebounds. The final rebounding margin was 30-30, and the Hogs were limited on the offensive glass for the first time this season.

The Razorbacks switched to a 2-3 zone late in the first half to contain Payton's drives down the lane, which helped out the defense. Despite the 2-3 zone's tendency to leave the 3-point arc open, neither team was effective from beyond the arc, with the Hogs finishing 2 of 13 and the Cajuns finishing 2 of 17.

After losing the turnover battle 8-5 in the first half, a rare occurrence for an Arkansas team that led the Southeastern Conference in turnover margin a year ago, the Hogs took control in the second half, winning the final turnover battle 20-16.

It won't get any easier for Arkansas any time soon, as the Hogs return to action on Monday night against SMU at Bud Walton Arena at 7 pm.

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