Not a whole lot of story to this game. Arkansas jumped out to a 14-4 lead (nine of the points from Rashad Madden) in the first three minutes of the game and pretty quickly it became evident that Arkansas would not just blow by the 100-point marker, but do it with plenty of time to spare. It's the team's third 100-point effort of the season, and as we noted after the Tennessee-Martin game, the first time they've had multiple 100-point games since the 2000-01 season.
Bobby Portis continues to get better and better. He had another double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He also had three assists, three blocks, and a couple of steals that led to fast break dunks. Go ahead and dust off your old "BMFP" t-shirts and wear them to basketball games for the next couple of months.
Madden slowed down after the first few minutes but still finished with 15 points, two assists, two rebounds, and no turnovers.
Michael Qualls scored 11 points, grabbed five rebounds and picked up four assists in just 17 minutes of action. Coty Clarke had eight points and five steals. Moses Kingsley and Haydar each had nine points.
Mike Anderson picked up a tech when the Hogs were up by at least 30 points for arguing a block/charge call that went against Kikko Haydar, and that was fun. Anderson's definitely already in SEC form. When longtime Razorback reporter Bob Holt asked him about it after the game, Anderson replied half-jokingly, "You don't want to know what I said, Bob."
But the really great news is that we finally get to turn the corner and begin SEC play. As we all know by now, the Hogs open conference games in College Station on Wednesday night.
There's been a lot of talk about the importance of this game. It is an important game but it's not a "must-win" necessarily, at least in terms of Arkansas getting in the NCAA Tournament. The Razorbacks do have 17 SEC games following the A&M game, plus the SEC Tournament, so they still have plenty of opportunities to prove their worth to the selection committee.
The real importance is psychological - definitely for the fans, and possibly for at least some of the players as well. It's been well-documented: the game against the Aggies is the first true road game of the season for Arkansas, and after the last couple of years, fans will be a bit hesitant in their excitment for the basketball team until they begin winning games on the road - regardless of who they beat at home.
If Arkansas wants a really electric atmosphere next weekend against Florida, they have to beat Texas A&M. Fans are starting to buy into this team. It feels like attendance for these winter-break games is higher than it was last year. If the team can show they've improved by winning on the road, excitement for the program can continue to grow.
And if there are any players who still have any hang-ups about road games, they have a chance to overcome that on Wednesday. But if they lose, it's only going to get worse until they actually do overcome road games.
That's what's on the line Wednesday night. It really isn't so much about the team's record or the tournament. It's about whether this program has gotten to the point that it doesn't have to be afraid of playing on the road anymore. It's about the fans being able to fully buy in to this team.
I've watched every game this year. I believe they're a lot better than what they were last season. But they have to prove it on the road, and that starts this week.
I can't wait.
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