Just when everyone was worried about the defense, it's clicking for Arkansas. And, just when everyone figured every SEC game would be a nailbiter, the Razorbacks came up with a laugher.
Arkansas (17-5, 6-3) forced poor shooting for the fourth straight game to romp past South Carolina, 75-55, Tuesday night before 10,019 at Bud Walton Arena.
Bobby Portis scored 18 points with 13 rebounds in just 27 minutes, motioning for coach Mike Anderson to sub for him with freshman Trey Thompson at the 2:04 mark.
South Carolina (11-10, 2-7) shot an SEC low 27.9 percent, making only 8 of 33 in a 24.2 percent second half. The Gamecocks made just 17 baskets on the night, committing 20 turnovers against just 11 assists, the numbers visiting coach Frank Martin noted in the media room.
"We had more turnovers than baskets and assists," Martin said. "You have to make a shot against an NCAA tournament team on the road. We shot some air ball layups."
Arkansas won the points off turnovers, 21-1, with a lot of that coming on an 18-3 run in the first half that turned a 16-10 deficit into 28-19 lead at the 5:28 mark. The Hogs made it to halftime up, 35-28, then scored the first six points of the second half and were never challenged seriously the rest of the way.
Anderson accepted a congratulatory hug by former UA coach Nolan Richardson afterwards.
"That was Hawg ball," Richardson said, patting his former assistant on the back. "I liked that. It was fun to watch."
Richardson then turned to a reporter asking about the defense. He quickly said, "No, I'm talking about the offense. We got to playing our way on offense tonight. I liked the offense."
Anderson said it was the speed of the offense, not really the shooting, just 39.4 percent for the game. The UA defense has held the opposition to under 40 percent in three of the last four games with a high shooting night of 43.6 percent by Tennessee.
The only down note of the game was the way South Carolina battered UA forward Michael Qualls on some high-soaring dunk attempts and inside moves. Qualls appeared to hyper extend his right knee in the closing moments. He limped to the student section for the celebration, then stiff-legged to the locker room.
"I think he's fine," Anderson said when first asked about the junior forward's status.
Later, Anderson admitted that he wouldn't really know until Thursday when he gets the trainer's report.
"I haven't even talked to the trainer yet," Anderson said.
Qualls didn't have his jump shot working, but still managed a 11 point, nine rebound game with a hard work on the glass to fuel his point total. He had five offensive rebounds, a category that was close enough for Anderson. The Gamecocks won that battle, 17-15, but it never became a factor in the game because of their poor shooting.
Martin said his team had no answers for Portis. He said he sees a different player as a sophomore, from his first year when he "played too much facing up. Now, he gets down on that left block and goes to work. We should have doubled him more, but that's not how we play."
Portis was pleased with the easy victory. He had noted in a Monday media briefing that he was tired of the string of close games and longed for a return to blowouts, by 20 or 30.
"I liked it kinda," Portis said. "I think I want to win by 30 now. But it's cool to win. We have to come back tomorrow and get to work. It does feel good. The last four went down to the wire. Today feels good."
Martin was complimentary of Portis.
"I love Bobby," he said. "I'm a big, big fan of his.
"We live in an era when kids are still worried about their prom dates and we think they should be dominant in the SEC. But he is dominant now."
Portis carried the big load, but the 6-11 sophomore got plenty of help. Ky Madden added 9 points and Anton Beard, Jacorey Williams and Alandise Harris each scored 7 points. Anthlon Bell and Moses Kingsley scored 6 points each.
"That was the bench of early in the season," Anderson said. "We had a lot of things clicking tonight. That might have been our best (SEC) game."
Bobby Portis goes on the floor for a loose ball.
Manny Watkins works on defense.
Michael Qualls comes up with a rebound.
Ky Madden finished with five assists.
Photos by Jason Ivester, Hawgs Illustrated
Arkansas 75, South Carolina 55
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