The Razorbacks tend to play well when honoring their legends, and Saturday against LSU was no different. And Mike Anderson wore a red blazer, so LSU was pretty much doomed from the start.
Arkansas honored all six Final Four Razorback teams, as well as former President Bill Clinton, and the team put on a big show for everybody.
After LSU quietly took a three-point lead midway through the second half, Alandise Harris took the ball down the baseline in front of where Clinton and Nolan Richardson were sitting on Gucci Row and threw down a vicious one-handed slam over an LSU player that sent the crowd into a frenzy, and ignited a big 27-13 run to close the game. Mike Anderson called it "unleashing the beast."
All 25 of Arkansas' points after the dunk were by Rashad Madden, Coty Clarke, and Bobby Portis and they were scoring every way you can. Threes, jumpers, layups, free throws. The trio was doing it all. The highlight came on a fast break when Madden caught a pass and without dribbling tossed a behind-the-back lob to Portis for a big layup that pushed Arkansas' lead to nine with 3:19 to go. Clinton gave his approval.
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Madden said after the game he'd never done that before.
The ending came smoothly as Arkansas was able to successfully prevent any threat of an LSU comeback.
Madden's overall game was tremendous, leading all scorers with 21 points and adding five assists and three rebounds. Portis contributed 15 points, eight rebounds, four steals, and a block. Coty Clarke was held scoreless in the first half but blew up in the second with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
The Hogs led throughout the first half thanks to Michael Qualls being zoned in from long range. He hit three threes in the first 4:19 of the game, leading to a 10 point Arkansas lead. It was enough of a cushion for Arkansas to run into halftime with a 37-33 lead.
It's a solid win for Arkansas with six games remaining before the SEC Tournament. LSU was a bubble NCAA team coming into today's game. The Hogs will likely be favored in the next two games, against South Carolina at in Fayetteville Wednesday night, and then on the road at Starkville next Saturday. If the Hogs can win both they'll be back up to .500 going into the last four conference games.
The team has certainly been playing some of their best basketball of the season over the last few games, despite the one-point loss at Missouri. The re-emergence of Qualls and Harris has a lot to do with that. Arkansas desperately needs other players to step up and help the core of Madden/Clarke/Portis, and both Qualls and Harris have the ability to do that. Their 21 and eight combined points and rebounds is what pushed Arkansas over the top today, not to mention the huge surge at the beginning from Qualls' early threes and the momentum swing from Harris' dunk.
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