This wasn't exactly a game filled with highlights, but it was a game Arkansas led throughout and notched one more top 50 victory to their resume and earned another shot at Kentucky in tomorrow's SEC Championship Game.
The first half was awful, although Arkansas led throughout so no one seemed to mind too much. Bobby Portis didn't even score until the second half. Nick Babb even came in when nothing was working and was able to score five points, including the first free throws of his Razorback career. Those five points were huge because they came at a point when no one was scoring in the first half. It was really the first time Arkansas was able to create some separation between themselves and Georgia. Arkansas went into halftime with a 25-17 lead.
Everything returned to relative normalcy in the second half. Both teams scored over 30 points and Arkansas shot 41.4%. Portis was able to get on the board and finished with four points (his low for the season, but enough to get him just over the 1,000-point mark for his career, the third Hog to get there as a sophomore and first Hog ever to hit 1,000 points and 500 rebounds as a sophomore). Portis was active and effective, however, with 12 rebounds.
But even though Portis wasn't as effective scoring as the Hogs are accustomed to, the rest of the team stepped up. Ten players scored after only six scored last night against Tennessee. Michael Qualls led the team with 15 and Anthlon Bell scored 10. Alandise Harris hit some big shots in the second half that kickstarted some runs and finished with 8 points. Ky Madden had 6. Jacorey Williams made both of the shots he attempted and finished with 4 points.
Georgia was a little shorthanded. Starting shooting guard Kenny Gaines didn't play and a couple of others were limited with nagging injuries. They did still have three players in double figures. Marcus Thornton had 13 points and 12 rebounds. Only Portis matched him on the boards, with 12 rebounds of his own even though his shot wasn't falling.
Arkansas rebounded well today and that's really a big reason they won the game. We mentioned in our preview that defensive rebounding was one of Georgia's biggest strengths, but the Hogs won the rebounding battle today 41-37, and had a huge advantage in second chance points, 16-3. That was obviously a big reason Arkansas won the game.
But no matter how ugly, the Hogs pulled it out and are back in the SEC Championship Game for the 6th time in program history (Hogs are 1-4 in the previous five appearances) against undefeated #1 Kentucky. The Wildcats blew out Auburn on Saturday to advance to the final. The game doesn't set up much differently than the previous game except this time it's not in Rupp Arena and there will be at least more Arkansas fans in attendance this time even if the crowd will still be predominantly blue. The Hogs will certainly have to hope Portis is back to normal tomorrow to have any chance.
But if he is back to normal, and the Arkansas shooters show up throughout the game (remember, the 0-9 from three in the first half in Lexington doomed them) then we'll see what happens.