Bobby Portis scored 35 points against Alabama on Wednesday night and helped the Razorbacks to an SEC win.
But, that game was at Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks now go on the road to face an improving Vanderbilt team. Vandy (13-8, 5-4) and Arkansas (14-8, 3-6) have split the last four meetings at Memorial Gymnasium with Vandy holding an 8-4 advantage. Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson knows his team will be tested today in hopes of getting a road win.
“They are playing well,” Anderson said. “I think they've won four in a row. They're just finding ways to win, and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to find a way to win games and finish games. A lot of games in conference play are going to come down to a play here or a shot there or a stop there.
“That's a big win they had against Tennessee. They play well at home, just like everyone else does. So we want to have an opportunity to go and steal one. We haven't done it this year. It seems like we've gotten close in some games, and hopefully we'll play better in this game.”
Arkansas has a team that is built around depth and playing a lot of players. Vandy on the other hand has three guys playing 37-plus minutes in SEC games. Can the Razorbacks wear them down?
“They're playing what they have,” Anderson said, “and those guys are playing good minutes, but we want to make depth an issue.”
It's easy to want to make depth an issue, but to actually do it Anderson knows what his team needs to do.
“We've got to get out and make them work on both ends,” Anderson said. “Offensively, defensively. Execute defensively as well as offensively. We've got to make shots.”
Against the Crimson Tide, Bobby Portis scored 35 points to break Scotty Thurman's freshman scoring mark of 34 points. Thurman scored 34 twice as a freshman 21 years ago. When Anderson signed Portis he made it a point the former Little Rock Hall 5-star wasn't being viewed as a savior. However, on Wednesday night, that's exactly what Portis was. He scored 17-straight points over a 6:29 span from end of the first half and start of the second. He accounted for 29 of Arkansas' first 35 points.
Mike Anderson feels Arkansas has got to make its depth a strength today.
“He's just a guy getting better,” Anderson said. “I think he's getting better. He lets the game come to him. He played to his size, and that's an advantage for us.
“We recognize it, and we've got to recognize it even more as we get ready to go play on the road, that he's a guy that people have to pay attention to. He's a good passer, too. He's a very good passer. He doesn't turn the ball over a whole lot, so he's evolving as a player.”
Alabama Coach Anthony Grant was impressed with Portis who he knew from the recruiting circles.
“Bobby Portis was the story of the game,” Grant said. “For a freshman to be able to do what he did tonight – 35, 9 (rebounds), 6 (blocked shots) – that's the story of the game. He was outstanding.
“He's a 6-10 guy that can step out and shoot the basketball. Seeing him play in high school, I knew he had a skill level, but I was really impressed with what he showed tonight in terms of the package he put together out there.”
Anderson also addressed what he feels has been the key to Vandy's four-game winning streak.
“I think their defense,” Anderson said. “They mix and match their defense, whether it be a zone or man. They spread the floor. They've got the game in their rhythm. They've slowed the game down. They're averaging 61 points and any time you play that type of game, that favors them.”
Anderson feels Arkansas' numbers will be one of the keys to ending Vandy's winning streak.
“I think we have got to get into that bench,” Anderson said. “I think our defense – it has to be continuous with our defense for two halves.
“Offensively we have to execute an take advantage of the size advantage we have and take advantage of the depth that we have and we have got to shoot the basketball. We have got to make shots. And we have got to get to the free throw line. I want us to in attack mode for 40 minutes, not 20 minutes, but 40 minutes.”
The game will begin at 3 this afternoon and will be televised on the SEC Network.