Arkansas freshman Bobby Portis got to play in North Little Rock for the first time as a Razorback on Saturday and made the most of it in a 72-60 victory at Verizon Arena.
Bobby Portis had a big game for Arkansas at Verizon Arena in front of his family.
Portis scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor and also pulled down six rebounds to help lead Arkansas (9-2) to its fifth-straight win. Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson was pleased with how Portis, who is from Little Rock Hall, played on Saturday in the spotlight.
“He was great in the first half and got in a little foul trouble in the second half,” Anderson said. “He likes the spotight but the thing I like about Bobby is as a coach you challenge him and he will respond. He will respond in a big way.”
Former Little Rock Central standout Alandise Harris came off the bench to add 10 points, three rebounds and three blocks for the Razorbacks. Anderson was pleased the 10,113 in attendance got to see Harris and Portis and the rest of the Razorbacks get a win.
“They got a treat too,” Anderson said of the crowd. “I'm sure they were clutching their hearts when South Alabama made that run, but it's a game of runs and I want to thank them for coming out. You could feel the excitement even before the game and I thought our guys came out and used that to our advantage.”
Arkansas played outstanding defense including holding South Alabama's leading scorer Augustine Rubit to just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting.
“The shooting is not going to be there every night but you can bring the intensity on defense,” Anderson said. “I thought the first half we came out with energy, but we couldn't make shots.
“They have a great player in Rubit who can shoot the basketbal. They have some good guards, (Antoine) Allen, who can shoot the basketball.”
Other Razorbacks in double figures were Rashad Madden with 12 and Michael Qualls with 11. Coty Clarke led the Hogs with eight rebounds and also had seven points. Arkansas shot 48.1 percent from the field, but lost the rebounding edge 38-35 to South Alabama.
Senior guard Mardracus Wade came off the bench to score five points and was big for Arkansas when South Alabama made its last run.
“I stayed patient and stayed poised and went through my every day routine,” Wade said. I had confidence in myself and my teammates making plays and we did.”
Anderson was impressed with the way Wade responded to his opportunity tonight.
“Mardracus hit a really big shot for us,” Anderson said. “That's the great thing about this team you never know whose turn it is to step in there and make some big plays.”
Wade hit two key free throws and then nailed a 3-point basket. Wade felt the free throws helped give him the confidence he needed to hit the trey.
“Definitely,” Wade said. “After you make the free throws it definitely gives you the confidence in your shot. You can feel the rhythm and have a lot more confidence in it the next time you shoot the ball.”
Arkansas forced 20 turnovers against South Alabama something that Wade said this team places a strong emphasis on.
“That came from our pressure defense full court and half court,” Wade said, “touching balls, just being in the right place at the right time, and making things uncomfortable and doing the things we like to do.”
Arkansas will now take some time off for Christmas before returning to Bud Walton Arena next Saturday to play host to High Point at 7.
“This group hopefully when they go home they will do something to keep the old cardio going a little bit,” Anderson said. “Sometimes when they get home to visit the family they are there for about 15 minutes and then everywhere else.
“So we hope they get in the gym a little bit and that they do spend some quality time with their parents and family. We will come back and practice Christmas night for the ballgame coming up. We have to get ready for High Point.”
South Alabama (6-6) was led in scoring by Allen with 21 points and Mychal Ammons with 14. Rubit had 10 rebounds to lead the squad. Arkansas led 36-27at intermission.