FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - Behind a 17-3 run over the final 5:49 of the game, the University of Arkansas men's basketball team turned away a feisty Louisiana squad, 76-63, on Friday night in front of 12,780 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
Trailing 60-59 with under six minutes to play, the Razorbacks turned up the heat on the defensive end en route to forcing the Ragin' Cajuns into eight turnovers during the game-clinching 17-3 run. Sophomore Michael Qualls supplied seven of his 16 points down the stretch, while, on the flipside, Louisiana made just one of its final eight shots from the field and came away with points on just two of its last 12 possessions.
Arkansas improved to 2-0 for the fourth straight year with the win, picking up its 16th consecutive win at Bud Walton Arena in the process. The loss is the first of the season for Louisiana (2-1), who entered averaging 96.5 points over its first two contests but were limited to just 25 points in the final 20 minutes. The game was part of the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational, which the Razorbacks will take part in from Nov. 25-27.
"First of all, we were glad to get the win against a very good basketball team in Louisiana," said head coach Mike Anderson. "They came out with great energy, made shots, the first six shots. We were kind of in a hole where I thought we didn't come out with the energy that you've got to come out with. Give our guys credit. They hung in there and hung in there, I thought the wear and tear of keeping guys coming at you made a difference. I thought during the second half fatigue was a big factor in it. We had one of those spurts right there at the end. That's the great thing about how we play. You don't know when it's coming, but if you can just kind of hang around and hang in there, eventually it will come."
Redshirt junior Alandise Harris supplied 15 of his team-high 19 points in the first half, hitting 7-of-10 from the floor while adding four rebounds in 23 minutes of the bench. Highlighted by his seven points in the final six minutes, Qualls poured in 12 of his 16 in the second half while also adding team-bests of eight boards and a career-best five assists. Freshman Bobby Portis was the final Razorback in double figures with 14 points on 6-of-11 from the field.
For the second straight game, Arkansas shot over 50 percent from the floor, hitting 27-of-53 from the field for a 51 percent clip. The Razorbacks also forced the Ragin' Cajuns into 20 turnovers, improving to 15-1 under head coach Mike Anderson when forcing the opposition into 20 or more miscues.
Louisiana was led by Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 member Elfrid Payton, as the junior finished with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-18 from the floor and 9-of-14 from the free throw line. The Ragin' Cajuns entered shooting 52 percent from the floor over their first two games, but managed just a 40 percent clip (23-57), including 2-of-17 from three.
A game removed from supplying 47 points, the Arkansas bench came to the rescue in the first half, led by Harris, who equaled his output from the season opener in 11 minutes of work. Harris scored 15 of Arkansas' final 29 points while the bench supplied 23 total points in the first frame to help the home team turn a nine-point deficit at the midway point into a 38-37 lead at the break.
Through two games this season, Arkansas' bench has supplied 45 percent (77 points) of the team's scoring, including three double figure outings.
Arkansas will be back in action at Bud Walton Arena on Monday when it hosts SMU (2-0) in its final game before the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. Tip is slated for 7 p.m.