Portis Honored, Razorback Leap Up To No. 19

Arkansas (13-2, 2-0) jumps up until No. 19 in the latest Associated Press poll while 6-11 sophomore forward Bobby Portis (18.1, 7.8) is named both the SEC Player of the Week and the CBS National Player of the Week ahead of Tuesday night's 6 p.m. game with Tennessee (9-5, 1-1) in Knoxville.

Ahead of Tuesday night’s road game at Tennessee, Arkansas’ basketball team has jumped four spots to No. 19 in the latest Associated Press poll.

Razorbacl sophomore forward Bobby Portis named both the SEC Player of the Week and the CBS National Player of the Week on Monday.

The Razorbacks (13-2, 2-0 will battle the Vols (9-5, 1-1) in Knoxville in a 6 p.m. game that will be televised by ESPNU.

Arkansas has won seven straight going into the game against Tennessee, who are led by first-year head coach Donnie Tyndall and are coming in off a 56-38 home loss to Alabama.

“Arkansas is a top 25 team and Mike does an outstanding job,” Tyndall said on Monday morning's SEC Teleconference. “You can tell he's in his fourth year and he has his type of guys in his program.

“They're playing exceptionally hard, they're versatile,” Tyndall added. “They're deep. They've got an inside game, they've got an outside game. Just a very, very complete basketball team.”

Mike Anderson’s Razorback squad downed Vanderbilt 82-70 on Saturday to keep its momentum going.

“We certainly are looking forward to having an opportunity to play against a Tennessee team,” Anderson said. “ Donnie has done a good job of getting in there and getting them to play the way he wants to play.

“Defensively they are limiting people to 62 points a game,” Anderson added. “ I know they had a tough game against Alabama where they had a period there they didn't score many points, but it's a team from the standpoint I like what they bring to the table. It's a pressing team that gets after you on defense.

“The other side of is I like how we are playing,” Anderson continued. “We have some more guys that are really starting to step up and play well for us.”

No one is playing better than Portis, who had 32 points and 11 rebounds in the win over the Commodores.

He nows leads the SEC in scoring at 18.1 per game and in field goal percentage (58.2) and is also fifth in rebounding (7.8) and second in offensive rebounds (3.4).

“He keeps working extremely hard and it is just a matter of time before things start coming his way,” Anderson said. “What I like about Bobby is that he is totally focused on being the best player that he can be and the best teammate that he can be. What happens after that, happens after that.

“It is good to see guys rewarded for the hard work that they are putting in and is it paying off,” Anderson added.

Anderson believes Portis' improvement is both physically and mentally.

“I think Bobby is a year older now ,” Anderson said. “I thought for a guy his size, he was weak and coming in at this level here, guys came at him. I think this year he is much more prepared. Bobby is a student of the game and I think through the course of what took place last year he has learned from it.

“Also his core is a lot stronger now and that means that people are not just moving him around,” Anderson continued. “I think he is more active defensively, rebounding the basketball as well.

“I think he is playing with his length and he is 6-11 now,” Anderson added. “He is playing longer. I think one of the biggest components is our guys are now recognizing that he is an advantage.”

Portis is stepping up more as the season goes along per Anderson.

“It is just continuous of what he has been doing to start off the year,” Anderson said. “I think it shows you the growth and the maturity as we jump into SEC play. The intensity turns up many notches, the spotlight is even more on you and if you are going to be a marquee player in our league - and he wants to be one of the better ones in the country - so he has something that drives him to come out and work extremely hard and it is good to see him perform on the big stage as well.”

Anderson lauded Portis’ teammates in their efforts to get him the ball.

“When you have a 6-11 guy that is as skilled as he is, it makes sense to utilize him,” Anderson added. “He can really pass the basketball. He causes a lot of problems for our opponents and our guys are nor realizing that and getting him the ball at the proper time. He is playing well and playing with a lot of confidence.”

Tennessee downed visiting Arkansas 81-74 last season at Thompson-Bowling Arena in a game that had 10 ties and 15 lead changes.

The Razorbacks led by eight points late before falling apart.

“It's a great opportunity to go and play in a venue that we didn't fare well last year so I am looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge,” Anderson said.

The Vols are led by 6-6, 200-pound senior guard Josh Richardson, who is averaging 16.1 points per game.

“Josh has been fantastic,” Tyndall said. “Like any guy trying to learn a new position in his senior year, there's been ups and downs, but he's been a fantastic leader.

“He's probably, in my humble opinion, the most important to any team in our league,” Tyndall added. “That doesn't mean he's the best player on any team in our league, but if we don't have Josh Richardson, we might score about 15 points a game. He's pretty important to us, and he's been fantastic so far."

Anderson is well aware of Richardson seeing as how he came to his camps while he was in high school.

“Josh is someone that I have known," Anderson said. "He came to my camp up in Missouri so I am very familiar with him. Just to see the growth of him as a player. There are some guys that impact you team that way and this year he is that important to their basketball team.

“Very athletic, pretty skilled, energy guy, too,” Anderson added. “He plays with a lot of passion.”

Tennessee does not have a true point guard – which could obviously be a problem against Arkansas’ pressure.

“We're certainly going to have to do a great job of, first and foremost, coming back and meeting passes,” Tyndall said. “They, along probably with VCU, are the two best pressing teams in college basketball. So if you don't run your hands to the ball and meet passes against these guys, they'll dunk it time and time again.

“You've got to be strong in traps and be able to step through traps and locate the open guy. It's just got to kind of be by committee,” Tyndall added. “We don't have one guy you're going to throw the ball into and vacate the floor and let him break the press by himself.

“Our bigs are going to have to come back and handle the ball some as well,” Tyndall continued. “And that's easier said than done against a great defensive team.”

Bobby Portis listens to instructions from Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and assistant Melvin Watkins.

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