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 go full force from start
Arkansas forward Michael Qualls is fouled by Hyjii Thomas as he drives to the basket in the first half at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville on Saturday Jan. 4, 2013.
FAYETTEVILLE - By the time Arkansas suffered its first turnover Saturday night, Texas-San Antonio already had lost the ball 14 times.
The Razorbacks used the Roadrunners’ ball-handling problems to run away with a 104-71 victory at Walton Arena before an announced crowd of 8,801.
It was Arkansas’ seventh consecutive victory - matching the longest streak in Coach Mike Anderson’s three seasons - and final tuneup before opening SEC play Wednesday night at Texas A&M.
Arkansas (11-2) outscored UTSA 40-12 in points off turnovers, as the Roadrunners finished with a season-high 28 - also the most forced by the Razorbacks, surpassing 25 by High Point last week.
The Razorbacks finished with a season-low seven turnovers and had two in the first half. They didn’t have their first until the 2:16 mark, when Coty Clarke’s pass was intercepted by Jordan Sims.
UTSA (4-9) likely would have had more turnovers, but Coach Brooks Thompson called three timeouts in the first half when the Roadrunners were caught in traps by the Razorbacks.
“I told my assistants after the third one I think in my head coaching career that’s the first time I’ve ever called three in one half,” said Thompson, a former NBA guard who is in his eighth season at UTSA. “We had to do everything we can to stay composed and not let it get any more out of hand than it already was.
“Our guys were rattled coming in here. They don’t play in an arena like this with the great crowd. I think our guys got rattled and were scared at times to be too aggressive. That’s a credit to Arkansas’ pressure.” Arkansas senior guard Kikko Haydar said the players pride themselves on seeing an opposing coach forced to call timeouts.
“We want teams to call timeouts and use them up early, get out of what they’re trying to do,” Haydar said. “That’s our whole game plan, is not let the team do what they’re trying to do. Don’t let them run their offense. Don’t let them get shots up.
“We were able to do that tonight.” Freshman forward Bobby Portis led Arkansas with a career-high 19 points and had 10 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, 3 assists and 2 steals in 23 minutes. Junior guard Ky Madden added 15 points for the Razorbacks, who won their 23rd consecutive game in Walton Arena since losing to Syracuse last season.
Arkansas sophomore forward Michael Qualls had 11 points, and Haydar and freshman center Moses Kingsley had nine points each. Clarke had eight points and a career-high five steals.
Twelve Razorbacks played between 23 and 12 minutes as Arkansas led 62-35 at halftime and by 36 points in the second half.
“I thought our effort was there, and obviously when you get a lead of that magnitude sometimes the interest kind of goes the other way,” Anderson said. “So that was my biggest charge at halftime, making sure our guys stayed engaged and understanding that the game is not over with and we want to continue to play good basketball.” Arkansas guard Fred Gulley had a steal nine seconds into the game and had an assist on Madden’s layup.
“The first play of the game, Fred deflects the ball and I look up and we’re scoring at the basket,” Anderson said.
“It was all triggered by our defense.” Anderson said he especially was impressed by Arkansas’ lack of turnovers considering how many Razorbacks played.
“When you play that many guys and only have seven turnovers, that tells you our guys are understanding about valuing the basketball,” he said. “Our guys did a good job of coming in and staying focused.” Haydar said he didn’t realize UTSA had 14 turnovers before Arkansas had one.
“That’s definitely what we try to do,” he said. “We definitely want to win the turnover battle, and we don’t want to win it by just one. We want to win it by a lot.
“So that goes to show you that we were being active and forcing that team to do things that they didn’t want to do.” UTSA senior point guard Devon Agusi had a game-high 20 points but also had 9 turnovers in 28 minutes. Junior Keon Lewis, the Roadrunners’ regular starting point guard, is sidelined by a concussion.
Sports, Pages 21 on 01/05/2014