It didn't feel like a fast 40 minutes. There was a lot of doubt. A lot of anxiety coming from the fans. The game was tied with 5 minutes to go, but Arkansas blew out the Cajuns 16-3 in the final minutes to get the win.
Rashad Madden scored his first points of the season with 1:17 left to put Arkansas up by 8, then grabbed the ensuing rebound and the team got the ball to Michael Qualls for a big two-handed slam to put Arkansas up 10 and the game was effectively over.
It wasn't the most impressive debut for Madden, stat-wise. He didn't appear until about 9 minutes into the game, and finished with three points, two rebounds, two assists, and one block in just 17 minutes. But he was playing hard and made a difference. His +/- for the game was +11. Anderson said after the game that Madden was suffering from "a bug" and that he wasn't even sure if he would suit up for the game beforehand.
The Cajuns led by 9 early in the first half, but Arkansas followed Alandise Harris's hot hand to take a one point lead at halftime. He scored 15 points in the opening period on 5-6 shooting. That's when Harris made the team's only first-half three. He finished with 19, and his block with 2:49 left helped preserve what was then a 4 point lead. The ULL coach noted afterwards that Harris was the difference in the game.
Mardracus Wade pitched in as well, scoring all six of his points in the first half on perfect 1-1 from the field and 4-4 from the free throw line. Wade's been much more aggressive this season in taking the ball to the rim, and it's paying off, as he's a good free throw shooter, and with the new rules that will be at a premium.
Qualls played the most minutes (33) and finished second on the team with 14 points.
Bobby Portis didn't do much in the first half, but came alive in the second, scoring 10 points when the team was in dire need of offense late in the game. He even made the team's only second-half three, and it came at a crucial time to tie the game.
Arkansas never led by more than 5 points until the big run in the final minutes. There were seven lead changes, and there was a 5 minute stretch in the second half when the team didn't score and lost the lead, but the team didn't panic, and made plays down the stretch.
In a stat that should make several fans happy, the team only attempted 13 threes. They only made two of them (Anthlon Bell was 0-4 but still scored 8 points), but 13 is a much lower number than the nearly 20 they shot last year. The team also shot 26 free throws. That's a much more effective ratio (2:1) than what the last couple of Arkansas teams were able to do. That's smarter basketball, and as Anderson said afterward, more aggressive basketball.
Louisiana's Elfrid Payton gave Arkansas fits throughout, especially early. He played 39 minutes and closed with 27 points, but he scored 16 in the first half and got to the rim at will in the first few minutes of the game. It wasn't until Arkansas put more effort into cutting him off that the team was able to get back into it. They had to cut the head off the snake, as Qualls put it.
Oh, and if you missed it, UL coach Bob Marlin left the game with just over six seconds to go. He walked down the sideline toward the Arkansas bench, shook Mike Anderson's hand, and proceeded down the tunnel and out of the arena. He was called for a technical foul for his efforts, and said after the game "I went to shake Mike's hand with six seconds to go. I'd seen enough."
He was clearly displeased with some of the calls down the stretch. He mentioned some charges and a play when Portis disrupted a lob pass and was not called for a foul. Oh well.