Apparently a few of Arkansas sophomore forward Bobby Portis’ friends were telling him that he might not be the best player on the floor in Saturday’s home game with Vanderbilt.
Challenge accepted and definitely passed with flying colors by the SEC's new leading scorer.
Portis had a season-high 32 points and 11 rebounds while Michael Qualls chipped in 20 as the Razorbacks rolled the Commodores 82-70 before a season-high crowd off 16,049 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
“People always saying that people are better than me and that fires me up,” Portis said. “People say that a lot so I had to do something to shut that up. Just my friends talking smack. Had to shut them up.”
Arkansas moved to 13-2 overall and 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 2008 with the win, which came before a crowd of nearly 7,000 more than the previous high this season of 9,270 against Dayton.
"I'm so proud of our fans," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "That's what I expect. I heard Bobby talking about the numbers that were here. I'm like him, I want to see 20,000 here, but they not only showed up they showed out.
"I thought they were really engaged from the tip of the game and our guys fed off it," Anderson added. "Our guys were on full display. It was a well-played basketball game between two teams that are playing well."
Razorback junior forward Jacorey Williams added 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in a career-high 30 minutes while senior guard Rashad Madden had 8 points, 6 assists and 3 steals in a win that moved Anderson's home record with Arkansas to 61-6.
“I am very proud of our guys - the energy level that they came out and played with today in the first SEC home game,” Anderson said. “It matched the crowd. I think there was a lot of energy and a lot of adrenaline going on.”
Vanderbilt (11-4, 1-1) had its four-game winning streak snapped with the loss, which happened in large part because of a season-high 22 turnovers - 14 of which came in the first half.
“I thought we got beat by a really good basketball team today,” Stallings said. “Watching them on film, I think they're a team with a lot of strengths and a lot of guys that can make baskets. They play Mike's system well. So there's no shame in that (losing at Arkansas).
“I thought there were some things we did real poorly,” Stallings added. “Obviously, defending Portis was one of them. Our ball care, especially to start the game, was brutal. I actually thought a lot of the turnovers at the beginning of the game were unforced. They did force us into some, obviously.
“You can't win on the road against a good team turning true ball over like that,” Stallings continued. “Our failure to rebound in the second half was bothersome.”
After missing his first two shots on the day, Portis was 13-of-16 the rest of the way from the field and also hit 6-of-8 free throws.
Portis - who entered the contest as SEC’s third-best scorer at 17.1 points per game and finished it as the new leader at 18.1 - also grabbed nine offensive rebounds among his 11 caroms.
“Bobby Portis was just really active all night,” Anderson said. “He was the bell cow. He was the guy that we went through and a lot of his was on offensive rebounds. He had nine offensive rebounds so when you attack that glass in that magnitude then some good things are going to take place.
Arkansas jumped out to a 19-9 lead in the opening half, led 44-36 at halftime and saw its lead sliced to 53-52 with 9:58 left.
But the Razorbacks reeled off seven points in the next 20 seconds with the help of two Commodores turnovers, two Portis baskets and a a 3-pointer by Madden, the SEC's sixth best shooter from long range at 45.7 percent.
Portis, shooting 58.2 percent from the field, 60 percent (9-of-15) from 3-point range and 70 percent from the line, had 21 points and Qualls added 12 after intermission.
Qualls, now seventh in the SEC in scoring at 15.8 per game, hit 5-of-10 field goals - including two 3-pointers - and 8-of-10 from the free throw line.
“We came out and delivered the first punch and to their credit Kevin and his kids responded the right way,” Anderson added. “I also say the game is two halves and the half we really win is that second half.
“I thought the second half was a game of runs,” Anderson continued. “They cut the lead to one and we had a group out there that I thought really brought great energy. Michael Qualls, I thought, played really well when he came back in the second time in the second half.”
Portis out-shined Commodores sophomore Damian Harris - the league’s fourth best scorer at 16.2 coming into the game - who finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds against the Razorbacks.
Portis stripped Harris twice and roared in for dunks.
“Bobby, to me, it’s his versatility and those are the things that he can do,” Anderson said. “A lot of the offense that Vandy runs goes through their forwards. So he did a good job of anticipating and getting in the passing lane and touching the ball and coming up with them and finishing on the break.”
Stallings' team shot 52 percent overall (26-of-50) and 66.7 percent in the second half (16-of-24), but yet still fell down by 15 in large part due to Portis.
“He was the most dominant player by a significant margin on the court today,” Stallings said. “We didn't have any kind of response or any kind of answer for him. He had his way, and it didn't matter which one of our guys tried to guard him. He just kind of did what he wanted.
“He's got good hands,” Stallings added. “He's got good length. But again, some of that's our fault. We've just got guys that don't throw good passes or guys that don't get themselves open. It got a little tiresome watching him go down there for one-on-zero fast breaks. Those weren't very much fun from our standpoint.”
“As a matter of fact, I don't know if he made a jump shot today, and you watch him on film and it's like he never misses a 17-foot jump shot,” Stallings continued. “He's a very complete player. A very, very good player. He'll play for a long time.”
Williams' 30 minutes of action came after Moses Kingsley started and got two early fouls in the first five minutes.
“Moses got in foul trouble early on and I just thought that Jacorey had it going on,” Anderson said. “He had energy, he was engaged in the game. We saw him with that unit and he was at the front of the press and really just causing havoc at the front of the press.”
Arkansas shot 47.5 percent (28-of-59) from the field for the game , 5-of-14 from 3-point range and 21-of-28 from the free throw line and out-rebounded Vandy 33-27.
Riley LaChance added 14 points and Luke Kornet 11 for Vanderbilt.
Arkansas will return to action Tuesday night at 6 p.m. when it travels to face Tennessee (9-5), who suffered a 56-38 home loss to Alabama on Saturday.
Photos by Jason Ivester
Jacorey Williams screams after forcing James Siakam into one of Vanderbilt's 22 turnovers.
Michael Qualls had 12 of his 20 points after intermission.
Rashad Madden - the SEC's leading free throw shooter and the league's second leading assist man - had 8 points, 6 assists and 3 steals and is now 47-of-51 from the free throw line this season.
Anthlon Bell drives around Vanderbilt freshman Riley LaChance.
Mike Anderson's Razorbacks are now 61-6 at Bud Walton Arena since his return to Arkansas four years ago.
Arkansas 82, Vanderbilt 70
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