If No. 24 Arkansas hopes to be successful on the road this week at Auburn and Ole Miss, then its Dynamic Duo has got to start dishing out the punishment together again this week.
Razorback sophomore forward Bobby Portis (17.7) - the SEC’s leading scorer - and junior guard Michael Qualls (15.1) were at one point the highest-scoring duo in the SEC.
Quall’s recent struggles - he is only 14-of-59 shooting since a career-high 30 points against Alabama - have seen the pair’s 32.8 combined points dip to second behind LSU’s Jarrell Martin and Jordan Mickey (33.0).
“He is having some of the same shots he's had before,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “And of course people are targeting him, there's no question about it. So I think we have to put him in a position where he can have some success.
“And that's not to say it's got to be 3-point shots,” Anderson said. “I think that's where a lot of people look at where his struggles are, it's from the 3-point line. Well, there are other ways of actually impacting your team from a scoring standpoint. And he has showcased that in some of the games.
“So my thought for Mike is impact the team in other ways,” Anderson continued. “And that necessarily don't have to be on offense. If he is struggling, and hopefully when he ain't struggling some really good things take place.
Arkansas (18-5, 7-3) visits Auburn (11-12, 3-7) Tuesday night at 8 p.m. om ESPN and then travels to Ole Miss (16-6, 7-3) - whose sizzling shooting effort handed the Razorbacks their only home loss so far this season - for a Saturday night game at 8 p.m.
Former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is in his first year as coach of the Tigers after putting NCAA violations and sanctions while at the helm of the Vols behind him.
“An opportunity to go play an Auburn team that won on the road at LSU and lost to a hot Ole Miss basketball team,” Anderson said. “They are led by Coach Bruce Pearl and they are going to shoot the basketball on the perimeter. They really can shoot the 3-point shot so we have to hopefully be able to identify those guys.
“… We have go to play well and hopefully shoot the ball,” Anderson said. “That’s the going to be a big key on the road, rebound the basketball and then shooting the ball.”
Qualls was already struggling before he got his knee bent back in last Tuesday night’s 75-55 win over South Carolina.
But after being listed day-to-day because of a sprained knee, he started Saturday and drilled the first shot he took - a 3-pointer - on what would turn into a 1-of-9 shooting day.
“I thought Mike came out and played - obviously he is still has got a little pain, but I thought he tried to play through it,” Anderson said. “Starting off he made his first shot. I thought defensively he tried to do some things. It's just a matter of him getting in rhythm.
“The scoring part of it is in different ways like he has always done whether it be fast-breaks or the mid-range game, curling to the basket to the free throw line,” Anderson added. “He has just to mix his game up from that standpoint.
“But our mindset has been from the defensive side,” Anderson continued. “I think he brings a lot of things to the table rebounding the basketball, blocking from the offside… those are things he can do. Hopefully he will get the chance to play a little bit more and get a little more comfortable with that injury.”
Portis has been remarkably consistent with five straight double-doubles and 8 in the 10 SEC games Arkansas has played so far this season.
“Bobby is a very focused individual,” Anderson said. “His improvement has been unbelievable. That goes to his work ethic in the offseason and having the opportunity to go and participate in the different camps over the summer.
“They really gave him an opportunity to pit himself against some of the better players in the country and of course he is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Anderson added. “He is stronger. It's nice to have a guy that can get you some double-doubles. That takes a lot of pressure off our perimeter guys. He is playing well.”
?Anderson talked about the evolution of Portis.
“I thought he had a good year last year,” Anderson said. “ But he got pushed around last year. He'd get close to that basket and you could use your pinky finger and push him around. So he grew over the summer and dedicated himself to getting his core a lot stronger.
“And all that I think the experience of leading the team,” Anderson added. “He is one of the leaders on this basketball team. And he is able to do that verbally and by how he plays. He has always done it but how he plays but now he can talk to those guys because he is one of your best players.
“The thing I like him is he is an even keel guy,” Anderson continued. “His best basketball continues to be in front of him. I think that's the important thing. He is having fun.”
Anderson thinks Portis having fun is a key to his success.
“You enjoy doing what you are doing,” Anderson said. “I think he is having an opportunity to develop basketball wise. He is having the chance to develop off the floor as well. He is getting the chance to showcase his God-given ability.
“Not many 6-11 guys are going to push the ball down the floor like a point guard,” Anderson added. “Rebound and push it down there and the coach has the confidence to let him do that. He can step out and knock the shot down from the 3-point line. And now of course he goes inside as well.
“The thing I love about him is he is relentless on the boards now,” Anderson continued. “That's something that is a key. He did it last year in periods but now he i just relentless. So he is having fun playing basketball.”
Michael Qualls and Bobby Portis celebrate after last year's road win at Vanderbilt
Dynamic Duo Must Deliver
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