No. 18 Arkansas 78, South Carolina 74

Bobby Portis has 24 points and 8 rebounds, Michael Qualls 18 points and Anthlon Bell 17 and Rashad Madden flirts with a triple double as Arkansas blows a big lead and then rallies from 11 down to beat South Carolina 78-74 Thursday night in Columbia, S.C.

Bobby Portis scored 24 points and pulled down eight rebounds to lead No. 18 and visiting Arkansas to a 78-74 victory over South Carolina on Thursday night.

Michael Qualls added 18 points and Anthlon Bell 17 for the Razorbacks (24-6, 13-4), who trailed by 11 points with 7 minutes left in a wild game during which they led by 20 in the first half.

"I am so proud of these guys because that could have been a game that went the other way," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "Our guys continued to believe in themselves.

"They were telling me ' don't worry coach, we got this.' I am over there screaming my head off like I am crazy," Anderson added. "At the end of the day, they have shown throughout the year that they are a team that when the chips are down, that is when they are kind of really start playing some of their better basketball."

Arkansas had to finish off the win by scoring 18 of the game's last 21 points - including 13 of the last 14.

"We giveth and we taketh away," Anderson said. ..."But thank God we had the last run and made some big plays going down the stretch and big plays by some key guys."

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said this summed up the season for his Gamecocks (14-15, 5-12).

"Story of our season," Martin said. "Our kids practiced well, I knew we were going to play well today. They fight, they don't back down. But we put ourselves, game after game after game, in a place to win and those last four minutes of the game are always an adventure. I'm disappointed with the loss but proud of the guys in the locker room. It's frustrating."

Portis thought the same about his team, but in a positive way.

"That just shows the toughness of our team," Portis said. Just to get a lead, then lose it and then for our guys to still come out and still battle hard. That shows our toughness and our togetherness."

Arkansas will be the second seed in the SEC and will be on the opposite side of the league tournament bracket from No. 1 and undefeated Kentucky.

The Razorbacks can tie a school record for SEC wins in a season if they down LSU (21-9, 10-7) Saturday at 1 p.m. on Senior Day at Bud Walton Arena in a game that will be televised nationally by CBS.

"We are looking forward to coming home and finishing this out in a strong, strong fashion and hopefully we can put together 40 minutes," Anderson sasid. "These guys are leaving it all on the floor and we are looking for a great, great audience for a game that will be on national TV.

"It's a quick turnaround and our guys are spent right now, but I am sure they will be ready when we tip it up," Anderson added.

Bell was 6 of 10 from the field - including 5 of 8 from 3-point range - as the Razorbacks won for the ninth time in 10 games.

"The key thing here is the game is not over until it says 0:00," Anderson said. "...It was a gutty performance. You talk about having the guts to finish it out, this team showed tonight that it was really, really resilient."

Rashad Madden had nine points, nine assists and seven rebounds for Arkansas and moved into the school's top five in terms of assists with his numbers on Thursday.

"I tell you what, he was flirting with a triple-double," Anderson said. "And if I am reading it right, he only played 26 minutes so it tells you how efficient he is playing for our basketball team. A lot of those assists were big."

The road win was the sixth in league play for the Razorbacks - the most since the 1993-94 national championship season - and their seventh overall on the road this season.

"Our defense, that was what got us early" Anderson said. "Our defense was in attack mode and that was the difference in the game. In the second half, they came out in a zone and I think it really slowed us down in terms of being in attack mode and we just settled for jump shots."

The Razorbacks led 43-23 with five minutes left in the first half, but the Gamecocks scored 48 of the game's next 65 points to go up 71-60 with 7:20 left in the game.

"We were up by 20 and I thought South Carolina got some momentum right before halftime," Anderson said. "it was because of our inability to take care of the basketball and that set up some easy opportunities for them. The second half they came out and they were possessed."

South Carolina managed only one point after leading scorer Tyrone Johnson left the game with cramps with 2:29 left.

Johnson, who had 28 points in last Saturday's win over Mississippi State, finished with 18 points.

"I think we saw fatigue became a factor," Anderson said. "We saw the Johnson kid - who was having an unbelievable senior night - he got cramped up and I thought fatigue was a big factor there with him."


Bobby Portis gets two of his 24 points

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