DALLAS, Texas– Led by 22 points from sophomore Bobby Portis and a gutsy defensive effort in the first half that resulted in an 11-point halftime lead, the No. 25 Arkansas men’s basketball team improved to 4-0 with a 78-72 win at SMU Tuesday night in front of 7,086 fans at a soldout Moody Coliseum.
Portis’ 22 points led all scorers and included 13 in the second half, while the Razorbacks were able to force the Mustangs into 16 of their season-high 19 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. The 4-0 start is Arkansas’ first since 2006-07.
The game marked the 155th meeting between the former Southwest Conference rivals, as the Arkansas defense was at full tilt to open the game. SMU opened by making just 1-of-9 from the field with seven turnovers as the Razorbacks built up a 13-4 lead. The seven SMU turnovers in the first 7:48 of the game equaled its made field goals for the entire first half.
Arkansas’ strong defensive effort in the first half helped it overcome its first sub-40 point half of the year, as it took a 33-22 lead into the break. The 22-point first half was SMU’s lowest half of the season, as it shot just 7-of-22 from the field with 16 turnovers.
Still holding a double figure lead, 42-30, just under five minutes into the second half, Arkansas used a quick 8-1 run that took just 90 seconds to take its largest lead of the game (19), at 50-31. Junior Jacorey Williams opened the run with an alley-oop from classmate Jabril Durham, as the Razorback lineup featured five players off the bench.
SMU bounced right back with a 7-0 run of its owned that eventually became an 18-5 run that made it a two-possession game, 55-49, for the first time since the 4:26 mark of the first half.
Needing a bucket to quiet the re-energized home crowd, Arkansas turned to its preseason Wooden Award list member Portis for eight of its next 13 points to quickly build the lead back to 13, 68-55, with 4:31 to go. With his eight points over the four-minute span, Portis reached the 20-point plateau for the second time this year which is one more 20-point game than he had last year as an All-SEC choice as a freshman.
The Mustangs refused to go away, cutting the Arkansas lead to as low as five down the stretch before the Razorbacks sealed their first non-conference road win since 2008 by making 7-of-10 from the free throw line in the final 44 seconds.
Junior Michael Qualls (13) and senior Rashad Madden (10) joined Portis in double figures. All 10 of Madden’s points came in the second half, while he also passed out a team-best five assists. Williams nearly made it three straight games in double figures off the bench with nine points and was part of a three-way with Portis and Qualls with five boards.
Arkansas #Fastest40 style has now forced 86 turnovers through the first four games with five coming tonight from SMU’s preseason Wooden Award watch list member Nic Moore. Moore finished just 1-of-6 from the field, taking on a wave of Razorback guards throughout the night.
SMU (2-3) entered the season ranked No. 22 in both national polls, but fell out of the top 25 on Monday after road losses at Gonzaga and Indiana.
Worthy Of A Hog Call (#WPS)Ranked for the first time since November of 2007, Arkansas improved to 379-101 all-time as a ranked team.
@RazorbackMBB Quick Hits
• Arkansas never trailed and the game was only tied when it was 0-0.
• First 4-0 start since 2006-07.
• First 4-0 start with a true road win since 1993-94.
• First road win as a ranked team since January 13, 1999, at Mississippi State.
• Arkansas has won four of its last six regular season road games dating back to last year.
• First win as a ranked team since 2007.
• Game ended a streak of 225 games without playing as a ranked team.
• The Razorbacks have now beaten SMU 13 straight times, including the last seven in Dallas.
• One of four unbeaten teams in the SEC.
• The game was the 400th of head coach Mike Anderson’s career.
• Portis has reached double figures in a half three times this year.
• Portis has reached double figures in the last eight games dating back to last season.
• Madden has led Arkansas is assists in three of four games.
Coach Anderson Postgame Sound
“I think we learned a lot about ourselves tonight and this is exactly the type of game we needed at this point. We told our guys before the game that they were going to face some adversity tonight and it was important that they stick together and not panic. I’m proud of these guys.”
• Last three opponents have a combined 63 turnovers and 66 made field goals.
• Arkansas has forced its opponents into double figure turnovers in five of eight halves this year.
• The Razorbacks’ 10 steals marked their third game with double-digit thefts.
• Out of 400 games as a head coach, Mike Anderson-led teams have won the turnover battle 339 times.
• Sophomore Manuale Watkins had multiple steals for the third straight game.
No. 25 Arkansas will return to Bud Walton Arena on Friday for a post-Thanksgiving day showdown with North Texas. The game be seen nationally on the SEC Network with tip set for 8 p.m.