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.
Thrive and advance
Hogs down Indiana State in NIT opener
Arkansas forward Bobby Portis, left, makes a move to the basket as Indiana State forward Justin Gant defends during the second half Tuesday, March 18, 2014, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas won its first postseason game in six years as the Razorbacks beat Indiana State 91-71 Tuesday night in front of an announced crowd of 7,697 at Walton Arena in the first round of the NIT.
The Razorbacks (22-11) advanced to play a second-round game against the winner of tonight's California-Utah Valley game.
It was Arkansas' first postseason victory since beating Indiana in the 2008 NCAA Tournament in Raleigh, N.C.
"We've done a lot of firsts that haven't been done here in a while," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. "Get ready, there may be some more.
"This team here, I feel like they're hungry. They'll enjoy this one until midnight, and let's see where it goes from there."
Sophomore guard Anthlon Bell led the Razorbacks with a career-high 28 points. He hit 11 of 13 shots, including 6 of 8 three-pointers, and had a career-high 6 rebounds.
"A shooter like that, we've probably got to try get him out of a rhythm a little earlier," said senior guard Manny Arop, who led Indiana State (23-11) with 12 points. "Unfortunately he hit a couple of tough shots and you get a shooter like that rolling and no matter how good the defense is, he gets it going and he's going to keep it rolling. Six of eight from three, that's tough to defend."
Arkansas outscored Indiana State 20-3, with Bell scoring the final eight points, to push the Razorbacks' lead to 89-64 with 1:53 left after Indiana State had pulled within 69-61 on senior guard Jake Odum's three-point basket.
"I just thought our team wore them down," Anderson said. "The depth, the quickness, the athletic ability -- and we shot the ball well."
Indiana State Coach Greg Lansing said the Sycamores expended a lot of energy cutting Arkansas' lead from 19 to 8 points before the Razorbacks' decisive run.
"They just drove us to death," Lansing said. "They just drove down with straight-line drives, got to the basket a lot.
"I think were a little tired. We were trying to rest on the defensive end and they don't let you do that."
Arkansas senior forward Alandise Harris scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half.
"He was in a beast mode tonight," Anderson said. "We had great ball movement and he found the mismatch."
Razorbacks junior guard Ky Madden had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Freshman forward Bobby Portis had 11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, sophomore forward Michael Qualls had 11 points and senior forward Coty Clarke had 10 points.
Clarke was 1 of 7 in the first half and Portis was 0 of 7, but the Razorbacks led 37-31 at halftime on the strength of Bell's 18 points.
"We were looking for him early because he was on," Clarke said of Bell. " As the game went on, we made things happen, but we were still looking for him. He basically opened it up for us with him doing that."
Arkansas shot 64.5 percent (20 of 31) in the second half, when Anderson said the Razorbacks did a better job of attacking the basket.
"I just thought we had great ball movement and great people movement," Anderson said. "No one was just standing, the ball didn't get stuck, and when you do that there are some matchups that you're going to have a chance to exploit. I thought we did a good job of finding the right guy."
Clarke said the Razorbacks are trying to take their first postseason victory in six years in stride.
"Some people aren't playing right now, so it's fortunate for us to be playing," Clarke said. "Even it's not the NCAA, we're still glad to be here, and we are still playing for a national championship."
Sports on 03/19/2014