This game felt like a blowout but it wasn't.
That's partly because it took Vanderbilt a while to get settled down, a "brutal" start according to Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. The Razorbacks collected seven turnovers in the first five minutes. That's as many as some teams give up in the whole game.
Arkansas was up 15-6 at that point, and, in the name of transparency, I'd written a tweet that said simply, "this is going to be a blowout" but held back in the name of jinxes. Sure enough, the Commodores gathered themselves and even though they never held the lead, they stayed in the game until the very end.
Bobby Portis once again led the team through any run Vanderbilt made. He had a season-high 32 points and 11 rebounds - but the really impressive stat is that 9 of those rebounds were offensive boards. He was incredible is what's been an incredible season for him so far.
Michael Qualls wasn't too far behind with 20 points. He was able to get a couple of big dunks late in the game to help seal everything after getting fouled while attempting a big one several times throughout the game.
Portis and Qualls combined for 52 points, including 33 of the Hogs' 46 total points in the 2nd half.
And the 2nd half was close for a long time. Vanderbilt shot 66.7% for the half. They had four players in double figures and cut the lead to a single point twice midway through the 2nd half. The first time, Portis hit a jumper to answer, but Damian Jones answered back with a dunk to keep the lead at 1. At that point, the Commodores were 9-12 from the field in the second half. Basically if the Razorbacks didn't force a turnover, Vanderbilt hit a shot.
Fortunately, the Hogs forced a lot of turnovers. After the aforementioned flurry to start the game they finished with 22. Three Commodores (Jones, Shelton Mitchell, and James Siakam) had five turnovers each. Arkansas scored seven points in the next two minutes after the lead was cut to one, and shortly after went on another 10-3 run to maintain a comfortable lead for the rest of the game.
Jacorey Williams and Ky Madden both had nice games after subpar games against Georgia. Williams had 10 points, 8 of which came in the first half. He also had some really nice passes down low for a couple of assists that resulted in dunks. Madden scored 8 points and had 6 assists. He didn't have any turnovers until late after the game had been decided.
It was interesting to see Mike Anderson switch around the lineup late in the game. Against Georgia, Alandise Harris, Anton Beard and Manuale Watkins shared the floor with Qualls and Portis, but Anderson put in Madden, Williams, and Durham for much of the late run today. It was for good reason as those players in the game were playing much better. Harris didn't have the hot hand he had in Athens as he was held scoreless, but Anderson did acknowledge he was effective defensively early.
Now the Razorbacks must head back out on the road as they face Tennessee on Tuesday night for the chance to go 3-0 in the SEC for the first time since the late '90s. The Vols haven't had a great year, but road games are always treacherous. However, if the Razorbacks can pull it out, Bud Walton could be full next week with their football celebrations and recruiting weekend going on. There were 16,049 in attendance today, easily the largest crowd of the season. And they were loud and effective. Just like it should be.