The 6-foot-5, 205-pound freshman scored nine points, including his first 3-pointer of the season, in Arkansas' 59-56 loss to Alabama Thursday. Qualls also contributed six rebounds, a steal and a block in 18 minutes of play in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
"I think we saw the emergence of Michael Qualls," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "I think you can see bits and pieces of it throughout the year, but I thought last night it was on display. Not necessarily just from a scoring standpoint. I thought he was impactful from the standpoint of just being active.
Qualls tied Coty Clarke with a team-high six rebounds against the Crimson Tide and the Razorbacks may need similar production on the glass Saturday when Arkansas hosts Tennessee.
The Volunteers (11-8, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) are on a two-game winning streak and have had a couple more days rest than Arkansas. Tennessee beat Vanderbilt 58-57 Tuesday, led by Jarnell Stokes' second double-double in as many consecutive one-point victories for the Volunteers.
The 6-foot-8, 270-pound sophomore scored 19 points and recorded 11 rebounds against the Commodores and last Saturday, scored 15 points and pulled down 18 rebounds in Tennessee's 54-53 victory over Alabama.
"I saw it coming," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said of Stokes' two most recent performances. "Just with the pace of his game. He's taking his time, but staying aggressive. I think it's also the development of the guys around him having the spacing, being able to make shots and make plays and getting a feel for how he operates.
"He's not the traditional big guy that plays with his back to the basket. He'll face-up and post-up around the blocks. Sometimes he's methodic with his post moves trying to feel it right, but he does a great job passing out of the post and then going off the dribble. We drew a play up for him and he made a play so we're really getting a feel for him."
Along with Stokes' 11.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, senior Kenny Hall joins Stokes in the frontcourt. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound senior adds another 6.2 points and 5.3 points per game.
"Tennessee brings its inside presence, with Jarnell Stokes, someone we're very familiar with," Anderson said. "He's a big, strong power forward that really he clogs up that lane trying to get the basketball and score. He's got a great presence down there, and you've got Kenny Hall on the other side. So you're talking about a team that's starting to find themselves."
Tennessee's opponents average 61.5 points per game, but Arkansas is averaging 80 points per game at home. Anderson said the Razorbacks (12-8, 3-4 SEC) are hoping to play at a high pace against the Volunteers, even though he was impressed with his team's performance when it was forced to slow down against the Crimson Tide.
"We have an opportunity to play at home where we play well but coming off a tough, tough loss at Alabama. I'm anxious to see our guys respond," Anderson said. "I thought we did some good things but just didn't make enough plays to finish off the game.
"Basketball is played a lot of ways. The key is, you want to play to win and I thought we played to win last night. I thought our defense in the half court was really good and it's something we're going to build on throughout the season. We prefer the uptempo and I think that gets us into rhythm and it allows us to use more of our personnel while a lot of teams are going to use six, seven or eight guys; especially this time of year.
"(Tennessee) wants the game to be in the 50s or 60s, and of course, we want to make sure the tempo is up to our liking. Should be a game where both teams will get after each other, and playing in the SEC, every game is a big game, so it's a big game for our basketball team."
Tipoff between Arkansas and Tennessee is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. Saturday. The Razorbacks will finish its three-game stretch over the span of six days when they host No. 4 Florida at 6 p.m. Tuesday.