The Hogs' shots weren't falling quite as easily as they were against Missouri Southern last week, but Arkansas was still able to put together an easy exhibition victory over Northeastern State Tuesday night.
The Razorbacks only led by seven after a sloppy first half and never led by more than nine points, but the team came out firing in the second and built a 20-point lead less than seven minutes in. The game would never be close after that.
After the game, Michael Qualls, Anthlon Bell, and Coty Clarke all used the word "stagnant" to describe the first 20 minutes, a word echoed by Mike Anderson. It's clearly something that was part of the coach's message to the team, and they were clearly listening to him.
It was a much better defensive performance from Arkansas than what they showed in the first exhibition game last week when they allowed MoSo to score 82 points. Northeastern needed two threes in the closing seconds just to hit the 50-point mark. The Hogs blocked 10 shots, and one thing fans can look forward to this year is a collection of powerful, athletic blocked shots from the Razorbacks. Alandise Harris even had a LeBron James-style rundown block on a fast break.
Clarke has easily been the most consistent player on the team over the first two games. After a perfect shooting game Friday, he led the team with 16 points on 7 of 9 shooting and added seven rebounds, two blocks, and a steal.
Anthlon Bell continued to establish himself as one of the team's leading scorers. He pitched in 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, but only two of his baskets came from behind the arc. He was much more efficient shooting midrange jumpers in the second half, when he went 4-for-4 on two-point attempts. Anderson noted after the game that Bell's making an effort not to just be a three point shooter, and it's paying off in these early games.
One of the bigger surprises was Bobby Portis' struggle to score points. He was only 1-8 from the field for two points. He did, however, display his versatility by leading the team in assists with six. No other Hog more than two. He also grabbed six rebounds and blocked two shots. Portis is a very versatile player whom the fans should really enjoy watching this season.
Harris didn't start Tuesday's game, and struggled a little in the first half, shooting just 2-for-7. But he was much more efficient after halftime going 3-for-4 for six points. Bell, Clarke and Harris are the only three Hogs to finish in double digits.
Michael Qualls and Fred Gulley each pitched in nine points. Nobody else had more than five. Mardracus Wade had a much worse shooting night than the previous game and the scrimmage. He was 0-for-6 and finished with three points from the free throw line.
But exhibition season is over, and the regular season starts Friday night against SIU-Edwardsville. When asked about being ready for it to get here, Clarke could only bring a big smile to his face. The team is definitely ready.