Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
In the lane :
UA guard takes cue, chimes in
Arkansas guard Anthlon Bell (5) celebrates after shooting a three-pointer against Indiana State guard Manny Arop (3) during the second half of an opening round National Invitational Tournament NCAA college basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark., Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Bell led all scorers with 28 as Arkansas defeated Indiana State 91-61. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson called on Anthlon Bell to start for the first time since Feb. 1, and Bell delivered with a career-high 28 points Tuesday night in the Razorbacks' 91-71 victory over Indiana State in an NIT opener at Walton Arena.
Bell scored Arkansas' first 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers, in the first 5:47 as the Razorbacks grabbed a 10-4 lead.
"Tough players make tough shots sometimes, and he was locked in from the get-go," Indiana State guard Jake Odum.
Bell made 11 of 13 shots overall, 6 of 8 from three-point range, and grabbed a career-high six rebounds.
"It surprised me," Bell said. "I owe it all to the offense. The offense was working good for me, people were looking for me and these guys were setting screens for me."
"We were looking for him early because he was on," Arkansas' Coty Clarke said.
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said he went with a gut feeling to start Bell over Michael Qualls.
"It's his time," Anderson said. "We were playing a team that I thought was going to pack in their defense, and you've got to have somebody that can knock some shots down, and he's a guy that's capable of doing it."
Bell scored 18 points in the first half on 7-of-9 shooting.
"He was hot from the start and never let up," Indiana State Coach Greg Lansing said. "I mean 6 for 8 and 11 of 13? I think he got a couple of offensive rebounds in there that helps you, breaks your back a little bit. Outstanding player."
When Anderson brought in five subs at the 14:13 mark, Bell was 4 of 4 and the rest of the Razorbacks had combined to shoot 0 of 11.
Bell's run continues a searing streak at home, following his 8-of-11 shooting and 23 points in Arkansas' 110-80 victory over Ole Miss on March 5. Bell is 19 of 24 (.792) for 51 points in his past two home games.
Bobby Portis' ninth rebound, which came early in the second half, gave him an Arkansas freshman record of 216 rebounds, surpassing Marshawn Powell's 215 in 2009-10.
Portis finished with 13 for the game and has 220 on the season.
Didn't belong here
Indiana State Coach Greg Lansing opened his postgame remarks by saying how disappointed he was to draw the Razorbacks.
"I was a little concerned, to say the least," he said. "I think they're an NCAA team for sure."
Arkansas won the rebounding battle 46-32 for its first victory in that stat in seven games, since outrebounding South Carolina 42-35 in its 71-64 victory over the Gamecocks on Feb. 19.
The Razorbacks outrebounded an opponent by double figures for the first time since beating Tennessee-Martin 49-31 on the boards on Dec. 19.
After Indiana State pulled into a 29-29 tie with 2:18 left in the first half, the Razorbacks went on an 8-2 binge to end the half.
The stretch included the game's top highlight, Coty Clarke's perfect pass from just to the right of the top of the key to Michael Qualls streaking down the left baseline for an alley-oop dunk.
Alandise Harris slapped the ball away from Sycamores guard Jake Odum with just a couple of seconds left in the half, and Ky Madden was fouled near midcourt with 0.9 seconds left. Madden converted both free throws to put the Hogs ahead 37-31 at halftime.
Sharing the ball
For the first time this season, six Arkansas players had at least 10 points. Behind Anthlon Bell's career-high 28 points, Alandise Harris added 13 points, Michael Qualls and Ky Madden scored 11 each, and Coty Clarke and Bobby Portis scored 10 each.
Give, go, slam
Arkansas guards Fred Gulley and Ky Madden found a creative way to set up struggling Bobby Portis with an easy, crowd-pleasing dunk early in the second half.
Gulley drove the left side of the lane after taking a pass from Madden, then pulled up and shoveled a short pass to Madden, who was cutting for the hole. Madden fired an on-target behind-the-back pass to Portis, who dunked unopposed after the quick ball movement.
Indiana State drilled well for Arkansas' 94-foot pressure, but it took a few minutes for the Sycamores to get the feel. Arkansas forced three turnovers in the first four minutes of the game, but the Sycamores only had two in the final 16 minutes of the half. The Razorbacks had six turnovers at halftime. Indiana State finished with 12 turnovers, the fewest for an Arkansas opponent since Texas A&M had 11 in the SEC opener.
Arkansas big men Bobby Portis, Coty Clarke and Alandise Harris got off to slow starts, including misfiring on several shots from 4 feet and in as the Razorbacks went 1 of 9 in the paint in the first half.
Portis had an 0-of-5 stint before the whole first unit came out, and Harris missed a pair of shots in close, including a spin move that put him right on the rim, in his first few minutes.
Portis finished 3 of 13 from the floor but had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Clarke was 2 of 10, and Harris finished strong with a 5-of-9 performance.
The Razorbacks will play either Friday, Saturday or Sunday against the winner of tonight's game between No. 2 seed Cal and No. 7 seed Utah Valley in Berkeley, Calif.
If the Golden Bears win, they have put in a host bid for the second round and would entertain the Razorbacks. If Utah Valley pulls off the upset, Arkansas would host again at Walton Arena.
Arkansas is 51-6 in three seasons at Walton Arena under Mike Anderson.
The Razorbacks moved to 3-2 in their series against the Sycamores. The teams met for the first time since the 1979 NCAA Midwest Regional final, an 83-81 Indiana State victory that included a questionable late traveling call on Arkansas' U.S. Reed.
Sports on 03/19/2014