It probably wasn't the dominant victory Razorback fans have come to expect the last couple of years when taking on lesser non conference opponents, but the Hogs did turn everything on in the second half to finish with what appears to be a solid victory.
The game was tied at 48 at halftime and Arkansas held just a 6-point game with 6 minutes to go, but the Razorbacks blitzed the Hornets for 24 points in those final six minutes to cruise to a season-opening win.
Bobby Portis led the Razorbacks with 24 points and Anthlon Bell scored 20 of his own. Combined, the pair hit 7-7 three pointers, which is obviously a good sign for Bell's season. Portis only hit nine threes all of last season and if he's added a reliable shot to his repertoire this season, he'll be extremely dangerous. Portis' biggest highlight, and possibly the whole team's, was a sequence in which Portis took a nice pass from Jabril Durham in the paint for a big dunk, then he stole the in-bounds pass for another dunk all in the span of about five seconds. That was in the middle of the second half and helped kick-start Arkansas' push to the finish line.
Alandise Harris and Michael Qualls both had 13 points of their own, and both pulled off a highlight reel dunk in the closing minutes. These Hogs have to have flair, you know. Harris also led the team with six rebounds. Durham and Rashad Madden each led Arkansas with six assists.
The biggest reflection of the added intensity in the second half is in Alabama State's 2nd half shooting. They shot 9-12 from beyond the arc in the first half but were held 0-6 from downtown in the second. They also shot just 38.2% from the field overall while the Hogs clocked in at 60%.
But again, it wasn't all pretty. Alabama State is the preseason pick to win the SWAC (so they should have a decent shot at making the NCAA Tournament) and had three players on the All-SWAC 1st team. However it was another starter, DeMarcus Robinson who was 7-7 for 19 points in the first 20 minutes. But Arkansas held him to two points on only two shot attempts in the second half.
This game also won't do anything to calm any nerves about the team's subpar rebounding efforts last year. Alabama State outrebounded Arkansas 38-27. That's despite the fact that the Hornets missed 39 field goals, far more than Arkansas' 26. The Razorbacks did force many more turnovers than they committed, which Mike Anderson is fond of noting makes up for some of it, but rebounding is a stat that Arkansas needs to improve on from last season.
The Hogs will face a much stronger test on Wednesday when Wake Forest comes to Bud Walton Arena. We've been told all offseason that this team is much better, and it won't take us long to find out just how good this Arkansas team is.