Arkansas guard Michael Qualls (24) heads to the hoop as Tennessee guard Kevin Punter, left, and Tennessee forward Armani Moore (4) look on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinal round of the Southeastern Conference to
Mark Humphrey
March 13, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Arkansas Razorbacks can thank Bobby Portis for starting off what appeared to be a lopsided tournament win against Tennessee.

They're even more thankful to be strong free throw shooters, which helped them overcome blowing that big lead in the second half.

''I looked at the stats and the stats I'm most proud of, we were 32 of 39 from the free-throw line,'' Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said after his team outlasted the Volunteers 80-72 in Friday night's quarterfinal. ''Big difference in the game.''

That was especially true down the stretch after Rashad Madden's four late free throws set the tone for Arkansas' clutch performance at the line that offset failures from the field.

The second-seeded Razorbacks (25-7) led 55-35 early in the second half before missing 12 of their final 15 shots, including none in the final 7:18, a drought that allowed the Volunteers to rally within four at 69-65 with 3 1/2 minutes left.

Madden (nine points) then made all of his attempts to start Arkansas' path toward victory. The Razorbacks made seven of their next 10 attempts to advance to Saturday's semifinal against Georgia.

Bobby Portis was 9 of 10 from the line en route to 26 points, including 18 in the first half. He also grabbed 11 rebounds.

Michael Qualls added 20 points and Alandise Harris 14 for Arkansas, which ended a three-game tournament losing streak.

Asked how that felt, Portis said: ''Great, because now I don't have to hear you asking any more questions about it.''

Senior guard Josh Richardson had team highs of 22 points and 10 rebounds for the No. 10 seed Volunteers (16-16) before fouling out late. Kevin Punter added 13 points and Robert Hubbs III eight for Tennessee, which shot just 33 percent but stayed close by outrebounding the Razorbacks 43-35 including 20-10 offensively.

''We were just trying to keep attacking them when we got rebounds,'' Richardson said. ''Coach (Donnie Tyndall) kept telling us throughout the game, if you get an open look, let it fly. So that's what we were doing.

''We got good looks all game, they just didn't fall.''

What had shaped up to be the tournament's first rout ended up as another tight contest that Arkansas won thanks to strong free-throw shooting from nearly everyone. The starters combined to go 29 of 34.

Portis did his part at the line, but his dominant start gave Arkansas fans something to cheer by racing to a 10-0 lead in just over two minutes that included five by the sophomore forward. His 3-pointer prompted a timeout from Tyndall in an effort to regroup.

Portis followed with another 3-pointer for an 18-3 lead before Devon Baulkman finally answered from long range for the Vols, whose challenge from that point was keeping the Razorbacks from breaking it wide open.

That didn't happen as Arkansas led 45-25 at the break and maintained a safe cushion early in the second half before going cold. The Vols meanwhile found their resolve and made it tense, but couldn't stop Arkansas' march to the line. They also missed some key chances at the line down the stretch as well.

''It was just a battle tonight,'' Qualls said. ''Shout out to Tennessee. They came to play. They didn't give up.''

TIP-INS

Tennessee: The Volunteers' bench outscored Arkansas 15-6. ... Armani Moore, Derek Reese, Tariq Owens and Baulkman each scored seven points.

Arkansas: Thirteen of the Razorbacks' (AP) - baskets were assisted. ... Arkansas missed all six 3-pointers in the second half and finished 4 of 16 from behind the arc. ... Harris' nine rebounds matched his career high.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: Awaiting possible postseason bid.

Arkansas: Faces Georgia in SEC semifinal on Saturday.

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