On a day when everyone was counting stars on football signing day, Arkansas trotted out a five star hoopster. Bobby Portis scored a freshman record 35 points Wednesday night to highlight a 65-58 victory over Alabama at Bud Walton Arena.
Scotty Thurman, now UA Director of Player Development, scored 34 twice (on the road at Missouri and Ole Miss) in 1992-93 to hold the old mark. Portis scored over half of his team's points and got the record with a pair of game clinching free throws at the 18.6 mark as the Hogs snapped a two-game losing streak.
Portis scored 18 points in the first half and then his team's first 11 of the second half to make it to 29 at the 16:23 mark. Alabama tightened things on the 6-10 Little Rock Hall star. Little Rock Central junior Alandise Harris picked up the slack with the next eight UA points, giving the Hogs the lead for good at the 7:02 mark with a one-hand jam.
Arkansas (14-8, 3-6) led by as much as 61-53 on Ky Madden's two foul shots at the 1:45 mark. Alabama (9-13, 3-6) cut it to three on Trevor Releford's three at the 41.4 mark. Jacorey Williams missed the front of a one-and-one at 33.7. Portis drained two at 18.6 and Williams got two more at 8.9 to set the final margin.
"We did what we are supposed to do, defend home court and we got a remarkable performance by Bobby Portis," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "Credit our guys for understanding that he had the hot hand and boy did we need it."
The rest of the Razorbacks made only 8 of 40 shots and were 1 of 25 at one point. Harris, coming off a suspension, canned 3 of 6 from the field. No other Razorback made more than one basket.
Portis made the only three-point shot for the Hogs. He was 1 of 2 from beyond the arc. The rest of the team missed all 11 of their threes.
Portis made 14 of 17 from the field, all six foul shots, added nine rebounds and six blocked shots. His previous career high was 19, 18 in SEC games. He had warmed up over his last three games with 18, 16 and 15.
Portis hit two 18 footers in the game's first minute and scored the game's first eight points. But the rest of the Hogs were so cold that they didn't get any separation until the final seven minutes. His three to open the second half was the only one of the night for the Hogs.
"The story was Bobby Portis," understated Anthony Grant, the Alabama coach. "He goes for 35, 9 and 6 in 35 minutes. Anytime a 6-10 forward can step out and shoot, it's a matchup problem. He's tough on film and I'd seen him in high school so I knew he had a package."
Portis downplayed the record.
"It's not about scoring points, it's about winning games," he said. "I was trying to do anything I could to help my team win a game any possible way.
"I just try to go with the flow. If my shot is not on, I try to find another way to help my team. But tonight I hit the first two and I knew I was on.
"But I don't care about scoring. I want to win bad. Every time we lose, I cry. My team in high school won four state championships and I want to win here, too."
Anderson wasn't aware of the record until he got to the locker room. He said he talked briefly with Thurman.
"I should have known, but I didn't," he said. "I do remember those games from Scotty. I think they were at Ole Miss and at Missouri. Now, I'd like to see someone do it on the road."
Grant said the goal was to limit the Hogs on the perimeter where they are usually deadly in their home arena.
"(Ky) Madden has been playing all-league basketball," Grant said. "We held him to 4 points. If you told me we'd hold him down and they'd make only 1 of 13 on threes, I'd feel pretty good about our chances.
"But Portis got a lot early. We made some adjustments, but he took our bigs to the perimeter and did a nice job. Sometimes you get in a zone. He was. He was 14 of 17. That's outstanding."
Anderson said the Hogs did a good job of finding Portis and getting him touches for the most part.
"I think we went away from him during one stretch in the first half," Anderson said. "We played better in the second half. Credit our guys for some grit.
"But Bobby didn't surprise me. He works hard. He is maturing. He did more than just score. He defended the rim, blocked shots and opened things up for some of the other guys in the second half."
The Hogs did not put any other scorers in double figures. No one aside from Harris was close. Jacorey Williams added six rebounds and Kikko Haydar added five, all in the first half.
Mardacus Wade, with 24 solid defensive minutes off the bench, said Portis came to their rescue.
"We needed it," Wade said. "We were struggling and needed a boost. I hope we can finish the year off and keep our heads straight.
"Bobby works hard each and every single day. He deserves it. We should have gotten him more touches. We tried to go to him and he came through."
Williams said, "We saw the mismatch early and he had that from start to finish. We kept getting it to him."
The Hogs hit the road for their next two games, at Vanderbilt at 3 p.m. Saturday and then to Missouri at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
Arkansas 65, Alabama 58
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