After a pair of heartbreaking road losses, there was a lot of commentary that getting Auburn in Bud Walton is just what the Hogs needed, and sure enough, the Hogs cruised to a 19-point victory.
The Razorbacks have struggled a lot in the second half of their SEC games so far this season, but the team actually closed strong, making eight of their last nine shots. Arkansas led by about 10 points throughout most of the second half, but the late run made the game look like an even bigger blowout.
"We showed we learned from the games we've been playing. We finished well," said Fred Gulley after the game.
In the second half, Arkansas scored 50 points on 17-26 shooting (65.4%). The Razorbacks definitely have some momentum going as they welcome Missouri to Fayetteville on Tuesday.
Arkansas never trailed. The Hogs jumped out to an 8-0 lead, and even though Auburn came back to tie the game quickly, Arkansas went on another run to take a 36-25 lead at halftime.
Bobby Portis led the team in the first half with 14 points and six rebounds in the first 20 minutes. He said he'd been working with assistant coach Manny Watkins on his post moves because - he noted after the game - the team needs him to work on the blocks for the team to be successful, and it paid off tonight. He only attempted one shot outside the paint (it was a miss). Jacorey Williams pitched in six points and four rebounds in his nine first half minutes.
"Yeah, it was a cool game," said Rashad Madden afterward in a polite understatement. He owned the second half, going 4-4 from the field, two of which were threes and the other two were tough shots in the paint, and was 9-9 from the line to finish with a career-high 24 points. "Yeah, it was a cool game," he said afterward. Brilliant.
He was helped in the second half by Gulley, who went on one of his patented runs when he scored eight straight points. Naturally, he went to the bench immediately (but not for long. He played 17 minutes in the second half). His points were a big boost at a time of the game when Auburn was threatening to come back.
It was also nice to see a couple of other struggling Hogs contribute to the win. Anthlon Bell was 3-5 from beyond the three point line for nine points. Michael Qualls still had trouble making shots but was able to convert a pair of dunks that will add to his highlight reel. One was a off a steal he made in the backcourt that resulted in a breakaway two-handed slam.
So the Hogs did what we expected them to do. They beat a pretty bad Auburn team at home. Arkansas gets Missouri in Fayetteville on Tuesday, and if last year's game is any indication, it should be intense. We have to wait until next Saturday to see the Hogs get another shot at a road victory, but they did what they needed to do to start getting their conference record back in order, but the upcoming week, hosting Missouri and traveling to LSU, will be a big one.
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