November 30, 2014

Arkansas returned to the Top 25 for the first time in seven years earlier this week, and now it's on the cusp of its best start since 1997.

The No. 25 Razorbacks go for a sixth straight win Sunday, when they meet visiting Iona for the first time in a matchup of two of the highest scoring teams in the nation.

Arkansas (5-0) hasn't opened a season 6-0 since winning the first eight games of 1997-98, and it's put itself in that position in dominant fashion.

The Razorbacks are outscoring opponents by an average of 19.6 points, and they used a 51-point second half to pull away in Friday's 89-73 win over North Texas. They also showed off some impressive depth after leading scorer Bobby Portis got in foul trouble and later fouled out with a season-low six points.

Michael Qualls picked up the slack with a career-high 22 points, while fellow guards Rashad Madden and Anthlon Bell added 15 points each.

"They do it on their own," coach Mike Anderson said. "They even told (Portis), 'We've got your back.' ... This is going to be a total team, and it was a total team win."

Arkansas leads the country with 21.2 assists per game, and spreading the ball around is a big reason why Portis (15.2 ppg), Qualls (14.4), Bell (11.8) and Madden (10.2) all average in double figures.

Qualls, who added a season-high nine rebounds Friday, has stepped up his game lately, averaging 18.3 points while hitting 52.9 percent from the field - 8 for 14 from 3-point range - over the past three contests.

The Razorbacks have scored fewer than 80 points once this season, and their 89.2 average ranks seventh in the nation. However, they're contending with an Iona team that's putting up 88.0 points per contest while connecting on 45.1 percent from beyond the arc - the sixth-best mark in the country. The Razorbacks rank fourth in 3-point shooting at 46.7 percent.

The Gaels (4-1) hit an average of 13.0 3-pointers, tying VMI for the highest in the country.

They drained a team-record 24 3s and set a school record for points in Wednesday's 126-76 win over Delaware State. Schadrac Casimir had an Iona freshman record with 40 points while making 8 of 9 from behind the arc, while A.J. English made six of his own to finish with 26 points.

English leads Iona with an average of 25.2 points, and he's sinking 42.0 percent of his 3s. The guard had a 17.2 scoring average while making 35.4 percent from long range last season.

Casimir's production has been much more erratic. He had 20 points in a season-opening win over Cleveland State, but totaled 22 over the next three games, including none in a 78-58 victory at North Texas last Sunday.

Iona is 5-16 against SEC teams, but has been outscored by an average of 20.1 points in losing 11 straight games against ranked foes since beating No. 22 North Carolina 65-56 on Dec. 27, 2002 at Madison Square Garden.

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