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.
Easy blows it
UA converts just 8 of 19 layups
Texas A&M's Fabyon Harris, right, jumps to the hoop against Arkansas' Rahsad Madden during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in College Station, Texas, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Bryan College Station Eagle, Stuart Villanueva)
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - When Arkansas freshman forward Bobby Portis missed a layup 24 seconds into Wednesday night’s game at Texas A&M, it was a bad sign of things to come for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas ended up converting just 8 of 19 layups as the Aggies won 69-53 at Reed Arena in the SEC opener for both teams.
Sophomore forward Michael Qualls and Portis - Arkansas’ leading scorers coming into the game averaging 13.7 and 12.8 points - combined for 9 points on 4-of-22 shooting from the field.
Portis had 7 points on 3-of-10 shooting after being 21 of 24 combined the previous three games and at 59.1 percent on the season. Qualls, shooting 53.1 percent coming into the game, was 1 of 12, including 5 missed layups.
NO. 10 FLORIDA AT ARKANSAS
WHEN Noon Saturday
WHERE Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville
RECORDS Arkansas 11-3, 0-1 SEC;
Florida 12-2, 1-0
It was the Razorbacks’ first road game this season.
“They’ve been at home, and they’ve been making shots,” Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy said. “But once they went through a streak where they weren’t making shots, they started pressing.”
Qualls scored a season-low two points. His previous low was seven points, and he had scored 10 or more points in 12 games with a high of 21 against Minnesota.
“I thought he just kind of lost his composure a little bit,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “A lot of his misses were chippies there right at the rim. He just couldn’t get them to fall.”
Arkansas senior forward Coty Clarke, a team captain, had 9 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists but said he should have been more forceful on offense. He was 3 of 7 from the field, but his 3 made free throws came with 1:12 left when Texas A&M led 69-50.
“I wasn’t as aggressive as I normally am,” Clarke said. “I was passing up shots I should have shot.
“You’ve got to take over and make plays. There are plays where you can be unselfish, but there are plays where you’ve got to be selfish and make the basket. We depend on that leadership and experience.”
It was Portis’ first SEC game and the first conference game Qualls has gone into as the team’s leading scorer. He averaged 4.6 points last season.
“I think they were just overhyped for this game and trying to go get it instead of letting it come to them,” Clarke said. “Just like I told them, it takes time. It’s just one [SEC] game. We’ve got 17 more games to play. We’re going to finish the season all right.”
Anderson said after the game he’d take the blame for the loss, but Clarke said the blame falls on the players.
“The other team didn’t stop us. We stopped ourselves,” Clarke said. “Let’s get that understood. We blew this game.”
The Razorbacks’ 53 points were a season low and 34 under their average. They made 21 of 58 (36.2 percent) from the field, including 4 of 19 on three-pointers, and hit 7 of 14 free throws.
“We’re a much better shooting team than we’ve been in the past,” Anderson said. “We didn’t handle adversity well, and we’ll learn from it.”
Junior guard Ky Madden was the only Razorback to shoot better than 50 percent (4 of 6) and scored a team-high 12 points, but he was 2 of 5 on free throws and had 3 turnovers.
“That’s very frustrating when we’re right there at the basket and we can’t make it,” Madden said. “But, you know, that’s part of the game. Everybody misses shots.”
The Razorbacks had outscored opponents 190-62 in points off turnovers while winning the previous seven games, but the Aggies outscored them 17-12. Arkansas had 14 turnovers compared to 11 for Texas A&M.
“If they can’t score, they can’t set up their press,” Kennedy said. “That was huge.”
Texas A&M senior guard Fabyon Harris said the Aggies had physical practices to get ready for the Razorbacks.
“They hack, they grab, they foul, they scratch, so we were well-prepared for them in practice,” Harris said. “Coach hasn’t been calling a lot of fouls. He let us play through a lot of stuff.
“We played to our strengths and didn’t let them rattle us at all.”
The Razorbacks take on No. 10 Florida on Saturday in Walton Arena. The Gators beat South Carolina 74-58 at home on Wednesday night.
“We’ve got to get this out of our system,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to flush it out real quick and get prepared.”
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/10/2014