FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Led by sophomore Bobby Portis’ 24 points and junior Anthlon Bell’s 20 points, the Arkansas men’s basketball team opened its 2014-15 campaign with a 97-79 win over SWAC favorite Alabama State on Sunday at Bud Walton Arena.
The win marked the 41st straight season Arkansas has opened with a victory at home while it pushed its stretch of consecutive wins at home over unranked non-conference teams to 44.
Portis was the catalyst in the first half with 16 of his 24 points while Bell’s third straight 20-point outing at Bud Walton Arena saw him pour in 15 points over the final 20 minutes. The duo combined to shoot 16-of-19 from the field, but even more impressive was their perfect 7-for-7 night from three. Bell has led the Razorbacks each of the last two years, while the 6-foot-11 Portis’ three trifectas are one-third of his total from 2013-14.
After 13 lead changes and 10 ties over the first 23 minutes of the game, Portis provided the final lead change of the game with back-to-back thunderous dunks that gave Arkansas a 57-54 advantage and forced Alabama State to call a timeout. Portis’ dunks were part of an eventual seven straight points from the preseason All-SEC first team big man while Bell contributed five points during the duo’s game-turning 12-2 run that gave the home team a 62-54 lead it would never relinquish.
Alabama State kept it a two-possession game, 75-69, with just over five minutes to go, but the Razorbacks forced the Hornets into three turnovers in a two-minute span while hitting 5-of-6 from the field, including highlight-reel dunks from both senior Alandise Harris and junior Michael Qualls. The end result was a 16-6 run and head coach Mike Anderson’s 60th career win at Arkansas.
Harris and Qualls both reached double figures with 13 points each. Harris led the way on the boards with six while senior Rashad Madden and junior Jabril Durham passed out a team-best six assists each. Madden and Durham’s combined 12 assists made up nearly half of Arkansas’ 25 helpers on 34 made field goals.
Arkansas’ 57 percent (34-60) night from the field was fueled 23 Alabama State turnovers that led directly to 27 points while it also held a 44-24 edge in points in the paint.
@RazorbackMBB Quick Hits
• Arkansas has won 41 straight home openers and is 22-0 at Bud Walton Arena.
• The Razorbacks out-scored Alabama State 49-31 in the second half.
• Arkansas has now beaten 44 straight unranked non-conference opponents at home.
• Bobby Portis’ 24 points marked his second career 20-point game.
• Anthlon Bell has 71 points in his last 65 minutes played at Bud Walton Arena.
• The 20-point game is Bell’s third in the last six games dating back to last year.
• Bell has hit three or more trifectas is a game 14 times in his career.
• Madden led Arkansas in assists for the 27th time in his career.
• Durham made his Arkansas debut, equaling Madden’s team-best six assists.
• Harris’ 13 points moves him just 38 points shy of 1,000 for his career.
• Qualls’ double figure game was the 30th of his career while his two dunks brought his career total to 55.
Coach Anderson Postgame Sound
“I’m proud of the way the guys responded in the second half. Alabama State came out loose and made a lot of shots in the first half so we need to reiterate defensive responsibilities at the half. The first half we looked like a team that just wanted to play offense, but in the second half we looked like a well-rounded team and our style of play took over.”
• Forced Alabama State into 23 turnovers, including double figure miscues in each half.
• Improved to 20-1 under coach Anderson when forcing opponents into 20+ turnovers.
• Nine different players contributed to the 14-steal day.
• Arkansas has won the turnover battle in 84 of 99 games under coach Anderson.
Arkansas turns its attention to ACC foe Wake Forest, who will visit Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday. Tip is slated for 8 p.m. and can be seen on the SEC Network.