Bobby Portis turned what was otherwise a mundane, lethargic night-of-National-Signing-Day SEC game into one that will be etched in the record books for a while, as he broke Scotty Thurman's 21-year-old freshman scoring record at Arkansas with 35 points.
"I'll mess with [Thurman] about it. He'll get pretty mad about it too," said Portis afterward with a big grin on his face. Thurman works with the Arkansas team as the Director of Student-Athlete Development.
For much of the game, Portis was literally all the offense Arkansas had. At halftime, he had 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting, while the rest of the Razorbacks were, wait for it because it's real and you won't believe it, 1-for-23. Then he came out and scored the Hogs' first 11 points after the break.
It wasn't until five minutes into the second half that the rest of the team got going. Alandise Harris returned from his suspension and scored eight straight Arkansas points, the last of which put the Hogs up for good with a little over seven minutes left. Arkansas got big plays from several players on the roster down the stretch. Mardracus Wade and Jacorey Williams hit back to back layups with about three minutes left that pushed the lead from two to six, and that was basically the end of the game.
Harris' eight points were the second-most on the team. Nobody else had more than four. Even Rashad Madden, who's had a long streak of double-digit games, only scored four - but he did come up with six assists.
Alabama's Rodney Cooper and Trevor Releford nearly matched Portis with 22 and 12 points respectively, but the Hogs were able to keep the rest of the Tide in check enough to pull out the win.
In the end, though, this game will be remembered for Portis. We don't know yet if this was just a hot night or if it's something he can carry forward. Obviously he won't score 35 points every time, but knowing he has the ability to score from most anywhere on the court - he dunked, he scored off offensive rebounds, long jumpers, layups, and even a three - could make him a more effective player going forward. In other words, did he make "the leap" tonight? Did the game slow down? Did it click for good? Any other cliches I can throw out there?
He also had nine rebounds and six blocks, if you're counting.
It will be a challenge, especially now that Arkansas now has back-to-back road games coming up. Once again, now we sit back and see if the road problems will get better. some big performances from Portis would go a long way.
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