Arkansas 80, Tennessee 72

Bobby Portis has 26 points an 11 rebounds, Michael Qualls added 20 and Alandise Harris chips in 14 points and 9 rebounds as Arkansas ends a seven-game SEC Tournament losing streak by downing Tennessee 80-72 Friday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - For the first time in eight games at the SEC Tournament, Arkansas walked off the court and winner into the semifinals.

Bobby Portis had 26 points and 11 rebounds, Michael Qualls 20 points and Alandise Harris 14 points and 9 rebounds as the No. 21 Razorbacks sizzled out of the gate and then ended up holding off Tennessee 80-72 Friday night at Bridgestone Arena.

"As you get to this time of the year, post-season play, it's about surviving and advancing," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "So that was the focus of this basketball team. This team has done a lot of firsts that haven't been done in awhile. So that doesn't surprise me.

"They're hungry, they're humble and they're a hard-working group," Anderson added.

Portis looked the part of SEC Player of the Year while having 18 of his points in the first half for Arkansas (25-7), who roared out to a 13-0 lead and led 45-25 at intermission over the Volunteers (16-16), who got within four points in the second half.

"In the new season, games are going to go right down to the wire," Anderson said. "There is a fine line between winning and losing. Our guys had the resiliency to finish that game off. "...We scored 80 points against a team that only gives up 60-some points," Anderson said. "That's a pretty good statement for the first game the tournament."

The Razorbacks did not have a field goal the last 7:18 of the game, but finished it off by downing 17 of its final 20 free throws on a night when they made 32-of-39 from the line while the Volunteers were going 25-of-34 in a foul-fest.

Arkansas senior guard Rashad Madden - who had 9 points and 5 rebounds - was 4-of-4 from the line during that time.

"I was so proud of our guys," Anderson said. "I looked at the stats and the stat I am most proud of, we were 32-of-39 from the free throw line. Our defense was good and we found a way to ride these two guys (Portis and Qualls) and other guys pitched in."

Portis was near unstoppable early on as the Razorbacks hit their first five field goal - a trio of them 3-pointers - and limited the Volunteers to 4-of-25 shooting from the field in the first half.

"I was just coming ready to play because last Saturday (a home loss to LSU), it was a heartbreaker for us," Portis said. "We just wanted to come out and show everybody Arkansas brand basketball, that we can get up, we ca really defend."

Qualls agreed that Arkansas came out ready to play and got Tennessee playing at a faster pace than it wanted to play.

"For the most part in the first half, I felt like we sped them up," Qualls said. "Tennessee does a great job at the possession game, holding the ball down to the last couple of seconds on the clock. We sped them up pretty much. I feel our whole team was hungry and we were ready."

Arkansas will play Saturday against the winner of Friday night's Georgia-South Carolina game after No. 1 Kentucky (32-0) takes on Auburn (14-19) - who has beaten Mississippi State, Texas A&M and LSU in three successive days - in the day's first semifinal at noon.

' Portis - 8 of 13 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free throw line - and Qualls - 6-of-12 field goals and 7-of-9 free throws - both had looks of relief on their faces after the game.

"Yeah, it was a relief," Qualls said. "It was a tough battle tonight. We stayed diligent. Shout out to Tennessee. They came to play. They didn't give up. They came, they gave it their best shot. BP, we rode him, and everybody else contributed and stepped up and played big."

Josh Richardson had 18 of his 22 points in the second half for Tennessee (16-16), who could not overcome the Razorbacks' torrid start.

"I said all year - and this is the third time that we have played Arkansas, who I think is a really, really good basketball team," Volunteers head coach Donnie Tyndall said. "It is a team that in my opinion could really go deep in the tournament.

"We talked a ton the last 24 hours as a team that the biggest key would be to take care of the basketball and not turn it over against their pressure," Tyndall added. "We started the game on our heels.

"To their credit, they were very aggressive and forced some turnovers," Tyndall continued. "We dug and hole for ourselves and like our team has done all season there was no quit...But if we could just have started the game a little better."

Tyndall, whose team split a home-and-home series with Arkansas this season, was stunned at the start of Friday night's game because he thought his squad was ready to play.

"I thought our team was really, really focused in the film room last night and today," Tyndall said. "The key would be taking care of the basketball and for whatever reason, we started a bit on our heels, which was surprising, because I thought we were ready to go."

Portis roared out of the gate, but Tennessee did slow him down in the second half as he had just eight points.

"The biggest thing is that he just so strong and athletic," Tyndall said. "A lot of times they just play over the top of us. We were in decent position, but they would throw it a little higher than we could go get it and he makes plays on balls.

"I thought in the second half we did a better job of getting a body on him and limiting his offensive rebounds," Tyndall added. "Probably four or five or six of his points came on offensive rebounds where we didn't block him out.

"I thought in the second half we did a better job of limiting his offensive rebounds," Tyndall continued. "We were quicker to the double team when he did catch it off the post a little bit. We were trying to double team him the first half, but we weren't getting there and he was splitting the double team and getting a bucket."

Richardson was 7-of-10 in the second half after going 0-of-4 from the field in the opening half while Tennessee hit 16-of-36 from the field after intermission.

"Coach kept telling us throughout the game that if you that if we get an open look to let it fly," Richardson said. "So that's what we were doing."

Harris had 9 of his 14 points and 5 of his 9 rebounds in the second half for Arkansas.

"He brought the energy today," Portis said. "That's just something that we need. Just because he brings a toughness to our basketball team and he always goes hard for us each and every play, even on defense."

Anderson said Harris knew what it was going to take for him to stay on the floor.

"Motivation was you get rebounds, you get to play," Anderson said. "He played 30-some off minutes. So he did a good job of going to glass for us and he played athletic for us. He gives us that toughness that you have got to have."

Bobby Portis roars in for a slam after getting a steal near halfcourt

Michael Qualls drives against Tennessee's Willie Carmichael

Alandise Harris goes in for a one-handed slam in the second half

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson pleads his case with referee

Donnie Tyndall exhorts his team to play defense

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