I hope you all didn't spend too much time coming up with new Mike Anderson/Arkansas Basketball road game jokes because the Hogs went down to Dallas and promptly dispatched the SMU Mustangs in a game Arkansas led from wire to wire.
That's not to say it was easy. Arkansas was certainly challenged, but for the most part, the team put enough together to get out of their with a big victory away from Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks led 33-22 at halftime, holding the Mustangs to just seven first half field goals, and built at 19-point lead with 13:30 left in the game after exploding for a quick 10-2 run that was kickstarted with an awesome alley-oop to Jacorey Williams. Unfortunately, Arkansas gave most of those points right back as SMU scored 8 points in about 50 seconds, including a four-point play by Keith Frazier.
But like we wrote in the preview, winning big games on the road usually means the team's stars are shining bright, and that was certainly true against SMU. Bobby Portis led everybody with 22 points, 9 of which came in the last eight minutes of the game. Many of those points came in a sequence late in the second half when Arkansas and SMU were trading points on nearly every possession.
Portis fouled out with 1:15 left and Arkansas holding onto a nine point lead, but Rashad Madden and Michael Qualls each hit a pair of free throws to seal the game. Madden and Qualls also came through big for the Hogs as the only other two players to hit double digits, and Madden played very little of the first half due to foul trouble. Madden also had five assists and came through big from the free throw line routinely, scoring seven of his 1o points from the stripe. All in all, Arkansas' tree stars accounted for 45 of the team's 78 points.
Jacorey Williams continued his solid season with nine points on 3-5 shooting, including the aforementioned alley-oop. He also had five rebounds, which tied with Portis and Qualls for a team high. Anthlon Bell scored seven including a huge three and steal+layup late in the game. Anton Beard scored six and drew a pair of charging fouls.
Altogether it was enough for the Razorbacks to hang on. The Hogs forced 16 turnovers in the first half but just three in the second. They allowed 15 field goals by SMU after just 7 in the first half. Yanick Moriera scored 20 points and Keith Frazier, who didn't play in Fayetteville last year due to injury, scored 16. But it all worked out.
This is certainly the first major win of the season for Arkansas, and the Hogs hope it's the first of a few they can put at the top of their NCAA Tournament resume. The Hogs take on North Texas on Friday but then face four straight potential top-100 teams in Iona, Iowa State, Clemson, and Dayton. It's a huge stretch of games for the Razorbacks and after tonight's win they should have plenty of momentum heading into those games.