Sometimes when past Razorback basketball team plays at Verizon Arena, they've played like they're playing a road game, but this year wasn't one of those nights. Arkansas took advantage of an energetic, season-high crowd of 11,375 and cruised to a 84-67 victory in Central Arkansas.
The final outcome was never in doubt. The Hogs led 45-28 at halftime, and although SEMO did cut the lead to 7 twice, but both times Bobby Portis was able to score the next points. The last time, it kickstarted an 8-1 run over the course of about a minute and 15 seconds of game time. After Portis' layup, Alandise Harris scored on a powerful putback dunk that brought the crowd to their feet, and that was pretty much it.
Things did get extremely mildly scrappy midway into the second half. Bobby Portis and Ky Madden were called for a technical foul along with SEMO's Nino Johnson. It was a strange sequence. I'm not sure anybody really earned a technical. It was pretty tame as far as basketball scraps are concerned. Regardless, it seemed to ignite the team as the Hogs took control of the game for the final time, pushing a 10 point lead to 20 in just a few minutes. Mike Anderson didn't like the players picking up technicals (Keaton Miles also got one later), but it worked out tonight just fine.
Portis had one of his best games in front of his home
town area fans. He finished with 24 points and 9 rebounds, 11 and 8 of those came in the first half. Michael Qualls was the second leading scorer with 15 points despite failing to score in the first half. He also threw down a monster And-1 dunk for the first time since the North Texas game, and you could tell from his reaction he'd been waiting for the chance to unleash something like that. He tried to slam one earlier in the game but was fouled and couldn't convert.
Anthlon Bell had 12 points. Alandise Harris had 9. All in all, a fun night in North Little Rock. It's no secret that games against teams like SEMO fail to draw great crowds in Fayetteville (which is the norm across the country) so it was nice to see a game with a good-size crowd that was really into the game. The players acknowledged as much afterward.
This was the first of four lightweight games scheduled before the Hogs go to Athens to begin SEC play in January. They did what they were supposed to do. They should continue doing what they're supposed to do over the next couple of weeks.