Arkansas 69, Dayton 55

Arkansas ends its two-game losing streak and snaps Dayton's five-game winning one as the Razorbacks get a win over an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight team of a season ago by downing the Flyers 69-55 Saturday afternoon before 9,270 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

On a date when the numbers went 12-13-14, Arkansas got one of its best wins of the season against what may be the best team to come to Fayetteville this season.

Bobby Portis had a team-high 18 points and 9 rebounds, Rashad Madden 12 points and Jabril Durham celebrated starting at point guard with 9 points as the Razorbacks downed Dayton 69-55 before 9,270 fans Saturday afternoon at Bud Walton Arena.

The win ended a two-game road losing skid for Arkansas (7-2) and also broke the five-game winning streak of Dayton (7-2), who was in the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight last season.

"I felt it was a good performance by our basketball team," Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. "The first half was one you wanted to bottle up and continue to have. Defensively we were really engaged. We were in the passing lanes and in position to help on defense and six some things on defense, taking charges and rebound the basketball. And more importantly I thought we were on the attack offensively as well. We pushed the basketball and got into our offense a little bit easier."

Jacorey Williams added 6 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists for the Razorbacks, who had suffered road losses to No. 14 Iowa State (95-77) and Clemson (68-65) last week.

The Razorbacks shot 57.6 percent (15-of-26) from the field in the first half, forced 10 Dayton turnovers before intermission and had 12 assists before heading to the locker room.

Arkansas blew the game open with a 19-5 run that gave the Razorbacks a 30-14 lead with 4:48 left in the first half when Anthlon Bell's 3-pointer capped a run of seven unanswered points.

I thought it was our defense," Anderson said. "If you noticed, every time we really pushed the ball in transition, our defense was the key. Whether we made them take a tough shot, or they turned it over. I thought our guys did a good job of really pushing the ball down the floor.

"Dayton's defense when you let it set up is really, really good, because they pack it in there," Anderson added. "But I thought we did a good job of moving the ball from side to side and taking advantage of the mismatches that we had. And our guys did a good job of making shots. We shot the ball well in the first half.

Portis said his team was focused on getting off to a good start and putting last week behind it.

“For sure, just because last week was a tough week for us and for our fans,” Portis said. “Just because we were ranked and I feel as if everyone was like on a high. Our team got knocked down, but as you can see today, everyone got back up.” Arkansas led 43-23 early in the second half when Durham - starting in place of Madden - nailed a 3-pointer, the same thing he did to start the game.

"I thought it really did a lot for his confidence," Anderson said. "As we know bringing him in, he's got to help impact our team. And so why not let him start out and see what he brings to the table. I thought he did a good job of commanding out there and going in there and rebounding a little bit. I thought he gave us some very, very good minutes. He and Jacooey were really key, I thought, in the start.

He was 3-of-3 beyond the arc on the day while making his second start this season, but first in eight games.

"I have been ready to just play in general,” Durham said. “Coach A always tells us to stay ready because we have got 10 starters and we do. Whenever your name is called, you have just got to be ready.

“It was a great feeling today coming out and starting, not just starting, but producing,” Durham added. “You could start and just not do anything in the game, but to produce - that was the best part of it.”

The Razorbacks did go through a stretch after that of scoring just six points in 11 minutes, but Dayton head coach Archie Miller said his team's push was too little, too late.

"Credit Arkansas, a really, really fun team to watch and prepare for," Miller said. " Very difficult style of play on both sides of the ball. I thought that coming in here, we had to be really organized, particularly early in the game offensively to give yourself a chance and some confidence and it's the one thing that really backfired. Just our organization and our inability to take care of the ball for much of the first half really kind of took it out of us.

"The second half much more of ourselves, only turned it over 3-4 times, or 4-5 times, whatever it was," Miller said. "Played a much better game. "

Overall he was pleased to play a road game in a building where Arkansas is now 57-6 under Anderson.

"I'm happy we came down here," Miller said. "I'm glad we had an opportunity to play this type of game, this type of team. It should really improve us moving forward. I know it'll improve me. They've got a good team. They're going to have a heck of a season. Got a lot of good players. Really, really impressive front court, as mobile as they are and as skilled as they are, a very challenging cover for us today."

Arkansas, who has now won 20 straight non-conference games at home, is now 4-2 this season against name non-conference foes with wins at SMU and at home over Wake Forest, Iona and Dayton and the losses at Iowa State and Clemson.

The Razorbacks have four more non-conference games before opening SEC play at Georgia on Jan. 6.

Portis was 7-of-9 from the field in the first half and had 14 points before intermission and finished the day 9-of-14 with just one attempt coming from beyond the three-point arc.

He seemingly benefitted from the insertion of Durham and Jacorey Williams into the starting line up.

"Bobby had a phenomenal first half and our guys did a good job of really going to him," Anderson said. "The (different) guys starting out I thought brought a little freshness to that starting lineup."

Miller expects him to be playing in the NBA sooner than later.

"He was terrific," Miller said. "With the way they run their motion, very difficult for front court players to deal with him when he's making jump shots. When he's making jump shots, they become really like a - almost like a different team, in terms of who's guarding them and how you're guarding him, because they move so well.

"That's one of the best passing and movement teams I've seen in a long time, just in terms of the speed that the ball moves and the player moves," Miller added. "A very difficult cover. But he's a really good player. He's long, he's big, great skill level. He's going to have probably an all-SEC year for them and if he does they're going to have a great year.

Madden - the team's best free throw shooter at nearly 90 percent a game - hit 8-of-8 charity tosses down the stretch to put the game away.

"He did what he was supposed to do," Anderson said. "That's what seniors are supposed to do. He was in the game and that's what seniors are supposed to do. We've got to have somebody go up there and knock them down."

One of the highlight plays of the game was Arkansas center Moses Kingsley getting a steal and taking the ball coast-to-coast for a bucket.

“He is a high-energy player and he always plays hard every second he is out there,” Portis said. “It is that coast-to-coast thing. Moses always does that in practice. I was just surprised that Moses took that to the game. It was kind of cool for us sitting over there on the bench to see him do that.”

Jordan Sibert, one of the stars of the Flyers' run in the Big Dance last season, had 18 points to lead Dayton.

"Dayton is a very good basketball team," Anderson said. " It shows you because we had an opportunity to really cushion ourselves and they wouldn't go away. That's a credit to Archie. Their experience speaks for itself. I was proud of our guys bouncing back from the tough loss at Clemson."

Arkansas does't play again until next Saturday in North Little Rock when it hosts Southeast Missouri State - who is coached by former Arkansas State coach Dickey Nutt - in a 7:30 p.m. game.

Photos by Jason Ivester

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