Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
It’ll take more than just Portis at Vandy
Arkansas freshman Bobby Portis, center, collects a rebound in front of Alabama senior Trevor Releford (12) during the second half of play Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - It wasn’t just Arkansas fans Wednesday night at Walton Arena who were tired of seeing Bobby Portis sit six first-half minutes against Alabama even though he had 18 of Arkansas’ 24 points at intermission.
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson tired of it, too.
“In the first half he got tired and put his hand up,” Anderson said. “By the time I got him out of there, he probably scored two more buckets and a couple of more rebounds. I was about to say, ‘Hey, man, you’ve got to play through some of that.’ ”
Anderson smiled about potentially kidding Portis for his well-earned first-half fatigue. The coach and the rookie had the last laugh about Portis’ time off. Difficult as it was to sit his hottest hand those six first-half minutes, without that respite Anderson knows his 6-10 freshman wouldn’t have had enough left in the tank for his 17second-half points. Portis finished with 35 points, 9 rebounds and 6 blocked shots while leading the Razorbacks to a 65-58 victory.
“I thought it helped him as we got into the second half because he had energy going down the stretch,” Anderson said. “He played about 30 minutes, and it was a refreshing 30 minutes.”
Obviously Portis’ performance never varied at the free-throw line, where he was 6 for 6, which included two with 18 seconds left. Those two irrevocably stemmed the Crimson Tide as Arkansas’ precarious three-point lead advanced to an unassailable five.
“He finished what he started,” Anderson said. “He started it off, and he finished it in the second half knocking down some big free throws going down the stretch.”
While it certainly seemed Portis was a one-man show - at one point the McDonald’s High School All-American from Little Rock Hall outscored his teammates 29-6 - he actually got refreshing help, Anderson asserted.
Reserve freshman center Moses Kingsley and reserve forwards Alandise Harris and Jacorey Williams combined to log 39 minutes in addition to the 20 minutes senior starter Coty Clarke contributed up front.
“All those guys gave us something off the bench so we had the chance to rest him,” Anderson said.
Harris scored his eight points consecutively in one second-half stretch. Kingsley and Williams combined for nine rebounds, while Clarke grabbed five boards and had three assists.
The Hogs (14-8, 3-6 SEC) will need all the numbers they can muster today against Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn. Vandy (13-8, 5-4), which has won four consecutive in SEC play, is a far superior team to Alabama (9-12, 3-6).
But the Commodores also are far thinner, a seven-man show with their eighth and ninth men combining for just 13 minutes in SEC play. Three Commodores average 37 to 39 minutes in SEC games.
Arkansas sports a dozen players averaging from 5.7 to 31.8 minutes in SEC games. So it seems if the Razorbacks are to overcome Vandy’s recently magnificent seven, they must do so by the numbers.
“We have to get into that bench,” Anderson said. “We have to take advantage of the depth that we have.”
Sports, Pages 20 on 02/08/2014