Portis' 24 leads Arkansas past SE Missouri 84-67
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) Michael Qualls finally had enough of his lack of high-flying dunks recently for Arkansas.
The explosive Razorbacks guard emphatically ended a four-game dunkless streak, doing so while scoring all 15 of his points in the second half of an 84-67 win over Southeast Missouri State on Saturday night.
Qualls, known for his game-winning putback dunk against Kentucky last season among his other powerful highlights, hadn't dunked since a win over North Texas on Nov. 28. He also had only six points in Arkansas' last game, but the junior's one-handed finish in the second half ignited the Razorbacks (8-2) - providing the perfect complement to Bobby Portis' 24 points.
''I just want to make (the national highlights) every night,'' Qualls joked, to which Portis quickly added, ''I think he's used to it by now.''
Portis matched his season high in points while adding nine rebounds in a return to his native central Arkansas. The 6-foot-11 sophomore, from neighboring Little Rock, was 9 of 14 from the field while matching a 24-point effort in a season-opening win over Alabama State.
Arkansas improved to 8-2 to start the season for a second straight year, shooting an even 50 percent (28 of 56) from the field and hitting 7 of 19 3-pointers. It was also the second straight win after back-to-back road losses at Iowa State and Clemson for the Razorbacks.
Jarekious Bradley led the Redhawks (5-6) with 17 points, despite shooting 1 of 9 on 3-pointers, while Antonius Cleveland added 13 and Nino Johnson 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Southeast Missouri State trailed by only seven points midway through the second half after falling behind by as many as 19 early in the half, but it was unable to keep up with the depth of Arkansas - which scored 24 points off 17 turnovers.
The Redhawks are now 1-19 against current Southeastern Conference members, with their lone win a 28-21 victory over Arkansas in the 1924-25 season.
''I thought they wore us down,'' Southeast Missouri State coach Dickey Nutt said. ''They don't have many weaknesses at all.''
After trailing by as many as 19 points early in the second half, the Redhawks cut Arkansas' lead to 49-42 with a 14-2 run - highlighted by a pair of dunks by Johnson.
The Redhawks were still within nine points at 53-44 before Alandise Harris ignited the Verizon Arena crowd with a one-handed putback dunk of Manuale Watkins' 3-point miss. Ky Madden followed with a steal and a pair of free throws, and the Razorbacks quickly extended their lead by to 59-44 after a layup by North Little Rock native Anton Beard.
Southeast Missouri State closed within 10 points once more at 59-49, but Qualls scored eight straight points at one point for Arkansas as the Razorbacks went on a 12-2 run to take a 71-51 lead and put the game out of reach.
Qualls had all 15 of his points in the second half, including his powerful dunk while being fouled on the break to put Arkansas up 79-57. It came off an assist from Beard and felt long overdue for the junior.
''You can really just feel the atmosphere changes (after a Qualls' dunk) from the standpoint of the attack mode we talk about,'' Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ''And then to see him finish off one with an and-one just shows you.''
Qualls was 8 of 9 on free throws, while Bell led the outside shooting attack by hitting 3 of 6 3-pointers.
Portis was one of three players from central Arkansas making their return home for the Razorbacks annual game in North Little Rock's Verizon Arena. Harris, also from Little Rock, had nine points and five rebounds, while Beard added six points.
Southeast Missouri State coach Dickey Nutt previously coached at Arkansas State from 1995-2008, and his brother Houston Nutt is a former football coach for the Razorbacks.
Southeast Missouri State faces a second straight Southeastern Conference opponent when it takes on Mississippi on Monday.
After a week off for finals, Arkansas plays its second game in three days when it hosts Milwaukee on Monday night.