No. 25 Arkansas 78, SMU 72

Bobby Portis has 22 points, Michael Qualls 13 and Rashad Madden scored all 10 of his points in the second half as No. 25 Arkansas picks up a big road win by downing SMU 78-72 Tuesday night and beating the Mustangs for the 13th time in a row before 7,086 fans at Moody Coliseum in Dallas.

DALLAS - Arkansas wanted to make a statement in its first road outing of the 2014-2015 season and did just that on Tuesday night.

Bobby Portis had a game-high 22 points, Michael Qualls 13 and Rashad Madden 10 as the No. 25 Razorbacks forced 16 SMU first-half turnovers and then closed the win out at the free throw line while downing the Mustangs 78-72 before 7,086 fans at Moody Coliseum.

Jacorey Williams added 9 points in what was the 13th straight win for Arkansas (4-0) in the 155-game series and just the second loss in 16 games since SMU put $49 million into renovating a venue that used to host the two schools when they were Southwest Conference rivals.

“We were disruptive,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “We weren’t going to let them run their sets and I thought the full court press, by the time they tried to get across and get into a set, our defense was just tenacious. I thought whenever they had guys on the block, we had two guys coming at them. We always had pressure coming at them. I thought our pressure was very, very disruptive tonight.”

Arkansas has now won four of its last six true road games - dating back to last season - after a long stretch of futility on the road.

"You always worry about it (the SMU rally), but you don’t worry at that moment and our guys did a good job of finishing,” Anderson said. “That’s one thing we talked about this year. We were in a lot of games last year - almost (winning) but almost doesn’t get it done. That is one of the things. We are committed to finishing.”

The Razorbacks, who led 33-22 at halftime, jumped ahead 50-31 in the second half before a spirited rally got the Mustangs within five at one point.

“We had some adversity take place and we did not panic,” Anderson said. “I didn’t see any panic in them. I think the one time they made a big run, I think we were up 17 with the ball.

“…But it is amazing, guys on the bench say we are going to be okay and just keep playing basketball. Now I am really hoping the leadership and the ownership comes into being.”

Qualls, who got an early technical after a dunk that put Arkansas up 11-2, is certainly buying in.

"If you want to be a good player, that's what you want every night — adversity," Qualls said. "Coach Anderson always preaches about adversity. If you think this game right here was tough, then you just need to come to one of our practices. It was a cool, cool opportunity. I was blessed and glad to play here. This is a good place. A lot of teams don't win here. It was a big opportunity for us."

The win came a day after the Razorbacks joined the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in seven years.

"It's big just because it's one game at a time," Qualls said. "Of course it would be horrible news to hear that we broke into the top 25 and then to come lose a day later. "

Portis is happy to be in the national college basketball conversation again.

"I think it's big for us to be in that conversation as one of the top teams in the nation, just because all the hard work we do in the off-season, running Cleveland Hill and all these thing are finally paying off for us," Portis said.

Senior center Yanick Moreira had 20 points and 10 rebounds for SMU while Keith Frazier added 16 points, Ryan Manuel 13 and Nic More 10 points and 6 assists.

That quartet helped the Mustangs (2-3) - who have not beat the Razorbacks since 1988 - in the second half as they score 50 points after intermission, but never led in the contest.

“Certainly proud of our guys to come into this type on environment and to find a way to survive,” Anderson said. “That is what we talked about - surviving. We had a lead and SMU - when you have got (SMU head coach) Larry Brown on the sideline, you know you are still in the game.

“Those guys would not quit,” Anderson added. “You have got Nic Moore out there that can do some incredible things and they cut the lead back down to five, but to our guys credit they didn’t panic and got to the free throw line and made free throws.”

Brown, a Hall of Fame coach whose team lost road games to Gonzaga and Indiana last week, was stunned by the early action in his home arena.

"We started off 1 for 9 (from the field) with no assists and 7 turnovers," Brown said. "So I think the key was they were much more aggressive, much better prepared and set the tone.…It's going to be hard to win a game when you have 5 assists and 16 turnovers in the first half. I think they created that.

"In the second half, I think we had 3 turnovers and 11 assists," Brown added. "We did a little better job of handling their pressure … But they imposed their will, and we weren't prepared. You can look no further than the coach when the team comes out that way and disorganized like we were."

Brown said his players "looked like deers in headlights."

"They switch everything so there were opportunities to get it (the ball inside), but if you don't get it over half court, it's kind of hard to get into anything when you keep turning the ball over," Brown said. "I don't ever in my life remember having a team start 1-for-9, no assists, seven turnovers in about the first six minutes."

Arkansas finished the night 24-of-53 from the field, 6-of-15 from 3-point range and 24-of-33 from the free throw line while forcing 19 SMU turnovers and forcing the Mustangs into a 22-of-48 night from the field, 2-of-9 from 3-point range and 26-of-37 from the line.

Anderson was pleased that his team competed on the boards, only losing that battle 34-30.

“We got to the free throw line,” Anderson said. “We talked about that. When you go on the road, you have to make sure you are in the ballpark rebounding and you have got to get to the free throw line just as much as your opponent. We did that and we didn’t let them annihilate us on the glass.”

“They are a very good basketball team and we are very fortunate to win tonight,” Anderson added.

Portis was 8-of-13 from the field, knocked down his only 3-pointer to make him five of six from beyond the arc this season, and also 5-of-7 from the free throw line.

"I thought Bobby had a good game, but Bobby didn’t have any rebounds at halftime,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t happy about that, but he came out and ended up with five. He had zero at halftime and ended up with five.

“That tells you what kind of player he is, what kind of kid he is,” Anderson added. “He is very coachable. He listens and he made some big plays for us. He is our hoss. We got a hoss that is very versatile, that can score inside and outside and we just want him to continue to get better as well as our team.”

Brown certainly was impressed with Portis as well.

"The kid Portis is a pretty damn good player," Brown said. "He's going to be playing somewhere else soon (the NBA)."

He was also impressed with how hard the entire roster played for Anderson.

"Foul trouble doesn't affect them," Brown said. "They're so deep. They're so committed to playing the way the coach wants. They're very unselfish, and I don't think he has to beg them to play hard. That's a culture at Arkansas."

Portis was happy with the win, but didn't think it was as tough an atmosphere as it was in last season's big win at Kentucky.

"Not tough at all," Portis said. "I think the toughest place we played last year was Kentucky. I don't think this relates to it. It got loud, though."

Arkansas will return to action this weekend with two games at Bud Walton Arena as it hosts North Texas on Friday night at 8 p.m and Iona on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Michael Qualls goes in for a dunk.

Bobby Portis had a game-high 22 points before fouling out.

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