SEC MEN’S BASKETBALL ARKANSAS 65, ALABAMA 58:
Portis’ 35 bail out cold Hogs
Arkansas forward Bobby Portis (10) slams an alley-oop dunk during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas defeated Alabama 65-58. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas forward Bobby Portis didn’t beat Alabama by himself Wednesday night, but for the longest time it looked like that might be the only way the Razorbacks could win.
Portis scored an Arkansas-freshman record 35 points and had 9 rebounds and 6 blocked shots to lead the Razorbacks to a 65-58 victory over the Crimson Tide before an announced crowd of 8,015 at Walton Arena.
“We had a remarkable performance by Bobby Portis,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “Credit our guys for understanding he had a hot hand and, boy, did we need it.
“It seemed like every time he touched it good things were taking place.”
Portis broke Arkansas’ freshman scoring record held by Scotty Thurman - who scored 34 points against Missouri and Ole Miss in the 1992-93 season - by hitting two free throws with 18.6 seconds left to push the Razorbacks’ lead to 63-58.
“I really don’t care about any records,” said Portis, a McDonald’s All-American from Little Rock Hall. “If my team gets the victory, then I’m all happy. I just go with the flow in the game. If I’m hot, I’m hot. If not, I’m going to do other things to help my ball club.”
Portis started hot against Alabama, hitting four shots in the first 3:40, and never cooled off. He hit 14 of 17 shots while the rest of the Razorbacks combined to hit 8 of 40.
Portis also hit 6 of 6 free throws. At one point in the game, he scored 17 consecutive points.
“I just knew I had to keep on shooting it and put this team on my back so we could get this victory,” Portis said.
Arkansas junior forward Alandise Harris finally provided Portis with some help on offense by scoring eight consecutive points, including an 18-foot jumper that put the Razorbacks ahead for good at 47-46 with 7:06 left.
Harris was suspended for the Razorbacks’ previous game, an 88-74 loss at LSU last Saturday, along with sophomore forward Michael Qualls for conduct detrimental to the team, but they were reinstated Monday by Anderson.
“I was proud of him,” Anderson said of Harris. “The second half, he got into a much better rhythm. As the game got up and down the floor, he was engaged.”
The Razorbacks (14-8, 3-6 SEC) had to beat the Crimson Tide (9-13, 3-6) to avoid a three-game losing streak and losing a third SEC home game.
“I just want to win, bad,” Portis said. “Every time we lose, I cry. I’m a winner. I won four straight [state] championships in high school. I want to win here, too. All I want to do is win.”
Junior forward Rodney Cooper led Alabama with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Trevor Releford added 12 points.
Portis was the Razorbacks’ leading scorer in an SEC game for the first time. His previous high in an SEC game was 18 points in a loss in a 75-71 loss to Missouri last week.
“We needed him,” Arkansas senior guard Mardracus Wade said. “He stepped up big for us, just like we always thought he could. He works hard each and every day, so I’m not surprised by what he did tonight.”
Alabama Coach Anthony Grant, looking at the post game stat sheet, said he would have felt good about the Crimson Tide’s chances of winning their first game if he’d known Arkansas guard Ky Madden - who was averaging 17.6 points in SEC play coming into the game - would be held to 4 points on 1-of-5 shooting and the Razorbacks would hit 1 of 13 three-point attempts.
Portis hit Arkansas’ only three-point basket to open the second half.
“Bobby Portis was the story of the game,” Grant said. “He was outstanding. Seeing him play in high school, I knew he had a skill level, but I was really impressed with what he showed tonight in terms of the package he put together out there.
“Sometimes as a player, you get in that zone, and he certainly was in that zone tonight.”
TUESDAY’S GAMES Kentucky 80, Mississippi 64 Florida 68, Missouri 58
WEDNESDAY’S GAMES Arkansas 65, Alabama 58 Auburn 79, South Carolina 74 Vanderbilt 64, Tennessee 60 Texas A&M 72, Mississippi State 52
TODAY’S GAME All times Central LSU at Georgia, 6 p.m.
SATURDAY’S GAMES Alabama at Florida, 11 a.m.
Kentucky at Mississippi State, 12:30 p.m.
South Carolina at Tennessee, 2 p.m.
Arkansas at Vanderbilt, 3 p.m.
Auburn at LSU, 3 p.m.
Missouri at Mississippi, 4 p.m.
Texas A&M at Georgia, 7 p.m.
Sports, Pages 19 on 02/06/2014