Arkansas 72, Savannah State 43

Rashad Madden tosses in a career-high 21 points and Bobby Portis posts a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds as Arkansas shakes off a lethargic first half and downs Savannah State 72-43 before a sparse crowd of just over 5,000 Thursday night at Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson turned 54 on Thursday and his basketball team looked poised to celebrate by bringing in a cupcake for the festivities.

But it appears that no one but junior point guard Rashad Madden – who had a career-high 21 points on the night - was interested in helping his coach celebrate before halftime.

That changed after recess as the Razorbacks (7-2) woke up and hammered Savannah State to the tune of 72-43 before a sparse crowd of 5,654 fans – the seventh-smallest crowd in the history of Bud Walton Arena.

"I told my guys that my birthday wish was first of all to get a W and they got that," Anderson said. "Congrats to those guys, but it wasn't easy, especially in that first half. Savannah State had something to to do with that as they controlled tempo.

"But I thought in the second half we began playing Razorback style of basketball – the Fastest 40 minutes," Anderson added. "You can really see how our defense can really create some havoc and get points and I thought we really dominated the boards (in the second half). We kind of put them back on their heels." Madden had 13 of his career-high 21 points by intermission, but the Razorbacks led just 27-25 at the break in a game where sophomore Michael Qualls – the team's leading scorer – sat out the entire first half.

"I know the million dollar question is Qualls," Anderson said. "It was one of those team rules. He came late to a practice so obviously he had to sit out a half. But we are passed that and we will move forward. I thought when he came in during the second half the energy level went up drastically and we did a much better job of attacking their zone.

"I thought in the first half we just settled," Anderson added. "We had some shots, some chippies that we should have made in the first half and of course the free throw line (6-of-12 in first half and 13-of-26 for the game) was another story. Things were going a different direction, but our guys kind of hung in there and got a great run going in the second half."

Anderson, whose team had a 48-35 rebound advantage and forced 19 turnovers on the night, dismissed his team's upcoming finals as a reason for his team's first half lackluster performance.

"There is no excuse," Anderson said. "I just thought we were flat and that's the bottom line. We didn't make shots...But in the second half I thought we imposed our will and I thought they wore down."

They would certainly do that in the second half while outscoring the Tigers 45-18 and ended up blocking 10 shots to punish a team that came into the game ranked 351 out of 351 teams in RPI.

Madden kept his starring performance going in the second half in a game where he was 8-of-11 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point range, 2-of-2 from the free throw and had two steals, two assists and no turnovers in a team-high 29 minutes of action.

"I just think it was just confidence and just playing and not thinking a lot," Madden said. "Just going out there and doing what I have been doing my whole life and that is staying focused and confident...Hopefully I can continue to do it and carry it over to the next game."

Madden was suspended for the team's two exhibition games and the regular season opener, but has turned his play up a lot lately and had a season-high 14 points in Saturday's 74-68 win over ACC foe Clemson.

"He is playing with a lot of confidence and playing instinctively," Anderson said. "He played 29 minutes with no turnovers, probably got a career high by taking what the defense gives him. He is attacking and just playing basketball. I think he is one of these guys that was demanding that guys get in the right position. That's great to see him playing at a high level. That makes our team that much more dangerous."

Freshman big man Bobby Portis added a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds while Coty Clarke just missed one with 8 points had 10 rebounds.

Ricky Scott chipped in seven points and 6-10 freshman Moses Kingsley grabbed 7 boards and blocked 5 shots while playing 13 minutes off the bench.

Qualls added 7 points once he entered the game after halftime.

"I think we took them lightly because it is Savannah State," Portis said. "That's pretty much what it was."

Senior guard Ricky Scott, who had seven points, said it was a matter of letting Savannah State (2-9) dictate tempo in the first half.

"I think we just didn't get up and pressure the ball as we usually do and put pressure on them," Scott said. "We let them come across and just basically pass the ball around and let the shot clock run down and it basically slowed us up."

Savannah State head coach Horace Broadnax, the former Georgetown star, said his team was just overwhelmed in the second half.

"I kind of knew that we could hang with them for a few minutes, but the relentless pressure that he puts on you just wears you down," Scott said. "That is basically what he did - he wore us down and made us feel uncomfortable for the most part of the game. We were able to make shots, but once fatigue set in it was kind of difficult for us to execute and they got their rhythm and started killing us on the glass and knocking down nice little jump shots."

Keierre Richards and Deven Williams both had 10 points each for the Tigers, who shot just 31. 4 percent from the field, 4-of-13 from 3-point range and 7-of-14 from the free throw line.

Arkansas shot just 35.7 percent in the first half with Madden hitting 6-of-7 shots and the rest of the team just 4-of-21 from the field.

The Razorbacks would then shoot 50 percent after intermission to end the night 27-of-62 from the field and 5-of-19 from 3-point range.

Arkansas is off until next Thursday when it will face Tennessee-Martin.

Anderson said that he plans to play Portis and Kingsley in the same line-up in these next few games leading up to the SEC opener at Texas A&M on Jan. 8.

"That was my intention tonight to play them together," Anderson said. "Moses had made a tremendous difference - 5 block shots, 7 rebounds in the time that he played. His minutes will continue to go up. Those guys will be playing together. You will see that real, real soon."

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