Razorbacks Keep it Rollin In Front of Nolan

Ahead of Saturday's showdown with No. 1 Kentucky, Arkansas wins its seventh straight game as Bobby Portis scores 22 points and Anthlon Bell adds 14 as the No. 18 Razorbacks down Texas A&M 81-75 on a night when 15,951 fans showed up at Bud Watlon Arena to honor legendary head coach Nolan Richardson

Texas A&M head basketball coach Billy Kennedy knew that former Arkansas head coach Nolan Richardson was being honored on Tuesday night, but he wasn't aware of what seemed like a couple of other Razorbacks coming back.

Bobby Portis had a team-high 22 points and Anthlon Bell 14 as No. 18 Arkansas raced out to a 33-9 lead en route to what ended up as an 81-75 win over the Aggies before 15,951 fans at Bud Walton and an ESPN national television audience.

“The first 10 minutes of the game, I saw they brought Coach Richardson back and it looked like they brought (former Razorbacks) Corliss Williamson and Lee Mayberry back,” Kennedy said. “ I really though the first five minutes they were dominant and there wasn't a whole lot we could do.

“You just have to give Arkansas a lot of credit,” Kennedy added. “They made shots. Portis played an incredible game and we were kind of stunned.”

Anthlon Bell had all 14 of his points in the first half while Rashad Madden and Alandise Harris added 11 each in what was the seventh straight win for the Razorbacks (23-5, 12-3).

Portis was 6-of-7 from the field and Bell 5-of-6 - including 4-of-5 from 3-point range - in a first half where Arkansas connected on 18 of its first 27 shots and 8 of its first 16 from 3-point range.

“Oh, man, It was fun,” Portis said, “because, you know, everyone was clicking on all cylinders. I feel like almost every shot that I took or Ant took was going to go in.

Arkansas solidified their hold on second place in the SEC over Ole Miss (19-7, 10-4) and Texas A&M (19-8, 10-5) ahead of Saturday’s game at No. 1 Kentucky (27-0, 14-0).

Portis is ready for the opportunity.

“Just try to earn some respect around the country,” Portis said. “People don't believe in us I feel like. I feel like teams, and so many people here and around the country still kind of sleep on us at the moment. Hopefully Saturday our team can change that.”

Richardson was honored at halftime and gave the Razorbacks their pre-game speech before the game.

The result was a 10-0 Arkansas blitz to start the game, the 33-9 lead and first half that found the Razorbacks up 49-26 at intermission.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson was pleased with the start on a night when his mentor was honored.

“What a special night to get a win against an outstanding Texas A&M team,” Anderson said. “They will certainly be in postseason play. That was like a NCAA Tournament game there even though we came out clicking on all cylinders, our defense, there was energy in the building and we fed off it.

“More importantly, our defense was good, we were making shots,” Anderson added. “We were making the extra pass, we were fixing things on defense and we had like 30 deflections in the first half and we talk about getting 40 for the game. So that tells me our guys were really dialed into playing defense and we did in the first half.”

Arkansas forced 16 of Texas A&M’s 21 turnovers in the first half and outscored the Aggies 22-0 in points off turnovers before the break.

“It was like 40 minutes of Hell Part 2,” Anderson said.

Texas A&M - who had won 10 of its last 12 games and five of its last six on the road coming into Tuesday night - refused to go quietly into the night and came roaring back after halftime.

Danuel House - who had a game-high 28 points - cut what was once a 25-point first half deficit with 3:33 left in the first half all the way down to 74-72 when he scored inside with 1:30 left in the contest.

But House missed a free throw, Rashad Madden hit two charity tosses of his own, Michael Qualls added 3 of 4 from the line and Alandise Harris got a steal and a slam to put Arkansas up 81-72 with four seconds left in the game.

Alex Robinson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was only important in that it meant the Aggies covered the 7 1/2-point spread.

Texas A&M was dominant on the boards in the second half to the tune of 28-11 after intermission and 44-23 overall.

“The second half we came out a little flat,” Anderson said. “ That's kind of hard to sustain that kind of play at that level. To the credit of Texas A&M and Billy Kennedy and their team and Danuel House - this guy made some tough shots and they were attacking the glass on us. They got physical with us on the glass in the second half and I was afraid that would take place.”

Anton Beard added 8 points while Madden chipped in 5 rebounds and 5 assists and Harris had four of his team’s 12 blocked shots.

Portis and Kingsley added three blocked shots each and Michael Qualls two on a night when he struggled offensively.

Qualls was 0-of-7 from the field, 0-of-3 from 3-point range, but was 6-of-9 from the free throw line and had five rebounds.

He did add injury to insult in the second half when he rolled his ankle, but got it taped up and return to hit the big free throws.

“Michael Qualls in that second half got a little gimpy,” Anderson said. “He is still hurting a little bit but he sucked it up down the stretch and got some rebounds and made some free throws and made some defensive plays for us down the stretch. It was a total team win. I am very, very proud of our guys.”

Kourtney Roberson had 14 points and 8 rebounds for the Aggies, Robinson 11 points and Jalen Jones 10 points and 13 boards.

“Halftime, that's uncharacteristic of our team to turn the ball over 16 times and give up 22 points in the first half on turnovers” Kennedy said. “We just said hey, we need to settle down, slow down. I thought we played too fast and got wrapped up in the atmosphere of the game. Arkansas, really defensively and offensively, they were the best I've seen an Arkansas team in a long time.”

Anderson knows Arkansas has to rebound better against Kentucky - who is as big a team as there is in the country.

“It's something we've certainly got to address,” What caused that, I just thought they got a lot more physical than we did, and maybe some guys were tired out there. I thought A&M went into attack mode, and we didn’t.

“…It’s very concerning as we get ready to go up to Kentucky, because that's what they do,” Anderson added. “They throw it up there and go get it. So we've got to correct that, and we've been pretty good in terms of rebounding the basketball and not letting people just annihilate us on the glass. So we've got to certainly do something about that before we got up to Lexington.”

Anderson does believe his team stayed in the moment instead of looking ahead to Kentucky.

“I think the beauty of this team, they've listened to me thus far about getting better each and every game and each game's a big game,” Anderson said. “… In their minds I'm sure they hear you guys talk about it and concern, but at the end of the day, A&M is a very good team.

“We've seen their record,” Anderson added. “They took Kentucky to 2 overtimes, they won at LSU. They've played well. They've won 10 of last 12 games.”

Bobby Portis had a team-high 22 points along with 4 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Anthlon Bell had all 14 of his points in the first half and finished the night 5 of 8 from the field - 4 of 7 from 3-point range.

Moses Kingsley had three of his team's 12 blocks on the night.

Texas A&M's Danuel House had a game-high 28 points.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson looks on during pre-game warm ups

It was sign night at Bud Walton Arena with this one definitely one of the best - and held by Anton Beard himself.

One of the other posters hyped up Michael Qualls' dunking ability.

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