It wasn't Bobby Portis' best game, but it will go down as one of his more memorable ones just because of his game-winning tip in at the buzzer to end the Hogs' two-game skid, send the fans into a frenzy and to find his name trending on Twitter.
Last year, Portis scored a career-high 35 points when literally everybody else had an off night to beat the Tide in Bud Walton, and this year made a couple of bad plays at the end of regulation that let Alabama squeak into an overtime period, only to score the winning basket at the last second to prevent double overtime.
This year it was Michael Qualls with the career night. The junior swingman had 30 points, and at least 3 dunks that could appear on SportsCenter later, including one in overtime after he stole the ball and broke free on a fast break that gave Arkansas its first two point lead in the extra period. Mr. Walk On Air was everywhere. He grabbed eight rebounds and was 10-16 from the field and 8-12 from the free throw line (actually subpar percentage-wise by his standards). He only hit two threes. Most of his work came in traffic.
The game was close throughout. There were 15 ties and 14 lead changes even though Arkansas led for just under 37 minutes. The Hogs' biggest lead was 10 but that was just a few minutes into the game after the Razorbacks got off to a quick start.
Arkansas had a 5-point lead with a minute left in regulation, but a terrible foul by Alandise Harris in the backcourt let the Tide cut the lead to three. Portis appeared to score on a reverse layup to push the lead back to five, but he barely touched the out of bounds line while moving under the basket and turned the ball over. Portis then fouled Alabama's Michael Kessens on a layup while the Hogs were up three with 2 seconds left. Kessens made the layup and the free throw to send the game to OT, where Portis would redeem himself in the last second
The Razorback defense has been a hot topic lately, and it looked better at times tonight but still looked bad at others. The Tide shot 50% from three (12-24) when they came into the game shooting about 32%. A big part of that was freshman Justin Coleman shooting 5-7 from beyond the arc. He hadn't made more than two in a game before tonight.
But Arkansas did other things better. The Hogs won the battle of the boards handily, 47-34, including 21-8 on offensive rebounds. Anderson credited Alabama using a zone to enable Arkansas to get rebounds more easily, and to help Alabama draw loose ball fouls. Four Alabama players fouled out. The Razorbacks also won the turnover battle 17-10.
One of the bigger stories coming out of the game is Anton Beard. Beard's had a few big games in his freshman season, and it's gotten to the point he's clearly been the most efficient guard to go along with Madden and Qualls (Qualls is listed as a guard). Anthlon Bell struggled again, going 2-8 from the field and 0-6 from three, so fans all seem to be on board with letting Beard take many of those minutes. Beard's and-1 with a couple minutes left in regulation was a huge play, possibly the biggest of the night that didn't belong to Qualls, Portis, and Ky Madden.
We'll see how many minutes Beard gets in Columbia on Saturday, or even if he starts.
Madden has been the most polarizing figure on the team this year. Even though he had 17 points, five rebounds, three assists and only three turnovers in 31 minutes, many hate to see him in the game, and granted, watching him take the ball and throw something up in the last seconds of overtime was frustrating because we've seen it before, Madden was a major reason why the Hogs had a chance to win. Portis had an off night on the offensive side of the ball, so Madden's 17 points were very much needed. He stepped up.
The win obviously ends the short skid for Arkansas and gives the team some positive momentum heading into Columbia on Saturday. Alabama came into the game rated 51st in RPI, and they won't fall far by losing to a higher-rated team on the road, so this will go down as a pretty quality win for the Razorbacks.
Missouri, on the other hand, is 154th. They have not been a good team this year. They've lost four straight games after opening SEC play by upsetting LSU in Columbia. It's a game Arkansas really needs to win.