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.
SEC BASKETBALL ARKANSAS 81, LSU 70:
Hogs rise to occasion at Walton
Arkansas forward Bobby Portis (10) and guard Rashad Madden (00) celebrate at center court after completing an alley-oop dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. Madden led all scorers with 21 points in Arkansas' 81-70 win. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas Razorbacks made sure LSU didn’t spoil the Final Four celebration Saturday at Walton Arena.
Alandise Harris had a thunderous dunk to ignite a a second-half run that carried Arkansas to an 81-70 victory before a season-high announced home crowd of 18,904.
LSU was threatening to put a damper on a festive atmosphere when the Tigers moved ahead 57-54 with 10 minutes left after a halftime ceremony honoring the Razorbacks’ 1994 national championship team and their five other Final Four teams that featured several former players, former coaches Nolan Richardson and Eddie Sutton and former President Bill Clinton.
Then Harris, a 6-6 junior from Little Rock Central, went hard to the basket for a one-handed dunk over 6-9 Johnny O’Bryant - with Clinton, Richardson and Sutton a few feet away in courtside seats.
“It was good to see him kind of unleash the beast in him,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said of Harris. “That’s what we needed at that point and time, and it just went through our basketball team.”
Harris’ dunk started a 27-10 run over a 9:03 span that pushed the Razorbacks ahead 81-67 with 46 seconds left.
“We needed something just to settle us down, and Alandise came out with a big dunk,” Arkansas junior guard Ky Madden said. “He made a big play that gave us the energy we needed to finish the game.”
Arkansas senior forward Coty Clarke said Harris’ dunk also helped the Razorbacks turn up their intensity on defense.
“He’s always trying to get showtime, so he showtimed, and he was happy about that,” Clarke said.
Arkansas took the lead for good, 58-57, on a short jumper by freshman Bobby Portis. Clarke and Madden hit backto-back three-point baskets, Madden made four consecutive free throws, Clarke hit another three-pointer and Portis scored on a layup to push the lead to 75-66 with 3:18 left.
“They made some big shots when they needed to,” said O’Bryant, a junior who led LSU with 20 points and 16 rebounds. “The guy [Harris] stepped up and hit a big shot on us.
“That’s the advantage of playing at home. You hit big shots when you need to.”
The Razorbacks (16-9, 5-7 SEC) improved to 13-2 at home while LSU (15-9, 6-6) fell to 1-5 in conference roadgames.
“I thought in the second half that we stayed the course, got a lead, and our guys played extremely hard,” LSU Coach Johnny Jones said. “But you certainly have to credit Arkansas with the way they played down the stretch - not only making some big plays, but some timely plays knocking down big threes late in the game that really gave them a cushion and made it really hard for us to recover there at the end.”
Madden led the Razorbacks with 21 points, hitting 12 of 14 free throws. Clarke scored 16 points - all in the second half after he was limited to three minutes the first half after drawing two fouls - along with 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Portis had 15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals. Sophomore guard Michael Qualls had 13 points and four rebounds, and Harris had eight points and four rebounds.
Qualls and Harris didn’t travel to Baton Rouge two weeks ago when LSU beat Arkansas 88-74 because they were suspended by Anderson for conduct detrimental to the team.
“I thought all the guys really played well,” Jones said. “I thought they had a great team effort out there today. They played extremely well together, and I think you have to credit all of them with the type of effort they had.”
Arkansas hit 10 of 17 three-point attempts, including 3 of 4 by Clarke and 3 of 5 by Qualls.
“They were ready for our zone this time,” LSU guard Andre Stringer said.
Arkansas shot 51.9 percent (14 of 27) in the second half.
“When you take good shots, the results are pretty good,” Anderson said. “Shooting can cure a lot of ills.”
When the Tigers went to a man-to-man defense, the Razorbacks drove inside and got LSU’s big men in foul trouble. Freshman forwards Jordan Mickey and Jarrel Martin - who combined for 37 points in the Tigers’ victory over Arkansas earlier this month - scored eight each. Mickey and Martin finished with four fouls each, which took away their aggressiveness inside.
Anderson said the Razorbacks did a good job defensively of keeping Mickey and Martin off balance when they got the ball.
“They were guessing where we were coming from,” Anderson said. “Then getting in foul trouble, they had to be careful as they were playing.”
The Razorbacks have won 3 of 4 games, with the loss coming at Missouri, 86-85, when Madden missed a driving attempt with two seconds left.
“I feel like we’re clicking now,” Madden said. “We’re playing together. We’re playing smart and we’re playing hard. That’s all you really can ask every night. I feel like every player goes out and we leave it all out on the floor.”
Anderson said he believed the Razorbacks wore down the Tigers in the final 10 minutes.
“We were able to impose our will on them,” Anderson said. “We never did pull off the accelerator. I think there have been some games where we played not to lose, but we were still in attack mode.”Arkansas 16-9, 5-7
DATE OPPONENT TIME/RESULT
Nov. 8 SIU-Edwardsville W, 99-65
Nov. 15 La.-Lafayette W, 76-63
Nov. 18 SMU W, 89-78
Nov. 25 California# L, 85-77
Nov. 26 Minnesota# W, 87-73
Nov. 27 Gonzaga# L, 91-81
Dec. 3 SE Louisiana W, 111-65
Dec. 7 Clemson W, 74-68
Dec. 12 Savannah St. W, 72-43
Dec. 19 Tennessee-Martin W, 102-56
Dec. 21 South Alabama% W, 72-60
Dec. 28 High Point W, 89-48
Jan. 4 Texas-San Antonio W, 104-71
Jan. 8 at Texas A&M* L, 69-53
Jan. 11 Florida* L, 84-82 (OT)
Jan. 14 Kentucky* W, 87-85 (OT)
Jan. 18 at Georgia* L, 66-61 (OT)
Jan. 22 at Tennessee* L, 81-74
Jan. 25 Auburn* W, 86-67
Jan. 28 Missouri* L, 75-71
Feb. 1 at LSU* L, 88-74
Feb. 5 Alabama* W, 65-58
Feb. 8 at Vanderbilt* W, 77-75
Feb. 13 at Missouri* L, 86-85
Feb. 15 LSU W, 81-70
Feb. 19 South Carolina* 8 p.m.
Feb. 22 at Mississippi State* 3 p.m.
Feb. 27 at Kentucky* 6 p.m.
Mar. 1 Georgia* 3 p.m.
Mar. 5 Ole Miss* 7 p.m.
Mar. 8 at Alabama* 3 p.m.
Mar. 12-16 SEC Tournament, Atlanta
%Verizon Arena, North Little Rock
Sports, Pages 21 on 02/16/2014