Portis leads Arkansas past South Alabama
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP)
Portis, a central Arkansas native, was particularly effective in the first half as the Razorbacks (9-2) used a 22-5 run to take a 32-18 lead before settling for a 36-27 lead at halftime.
The game was the sixth straight the freshman, a McDonald's All-American last year in high school, finished in double figures.
Ky Madden finished with 12 points, while Michael Qualls had 11 - including a pair of thundering second-half dunks for Arkansas. Alandise Harris added 10 points for the Razorbacks, who were 25 of 52 (48.1 percent) from the field.
''We had a great crowd here tonight, great enthusiasm and passion,'' Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ''When we needed them, they were there.''
Antoine Allen led the Jaguars (6-6) with 21 points, while Mychal Ammons added 14.
South Alabama committed 20 turnovers and was 20 of 57 (35.1 percent) from the field, including a 7-of-17 shooting effort from Allen.
''I felt that Arkansas' ability to switch a lot of balls screens and switch and their length would really stretch us and challenge us,'' South Alabama coach Matthew Graves said. ''Obviously, looking at the turnovers and shooting percentage, it did that.''
After leading for much of the first half, Arkansas extended its lead to 44-32 early in the second after an inside basket by Madden.
However, South Alabama answered with an 11-2 run to cut Razorbacks lead to 46-43 after a pair of free throws by Augustine Rubit with 9:03 remaining. Rubit finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Mardracus Wade, who has seen limited action recently for Arkansas, snapped the run for Arkansas with a pair of free throws. The senior, who led the Southeastern Conference in 3-point shooting two years ago, added 3-pointer moments later to put the Razorbacks up 52-43.
''Wade hasn't been playing much, but he was there when it mattered,'' Anderson said.
South Alabama led 10-5 early following a layup by Ammons, but the Razorbacks - who have now won two straight in their annual trip to central Arkansas - answered with a 15-3 run to go up 20-13. The run was capped by a pair of free throws from Rickey Scott.
''Our energy on defense was the key to the game,'' Anderson said. ''I tell the guys it's a game of halves. Second half, they made a run and we got a little stagnant.
''It was a good team win, good balanced win.''
Harris, another central Arkansas native for the Razorbacks, had three of the team's eight blocked shots.
Arkansas has now won five straight games after losses to California and Gonzaga at the Maui Invitational last month. It hosts High Point on Dec. 28 and Texas-San Antonio on Jan. 4 before opening SEC play at Texas A&M on Jan. 8.
''I feel like we're in a good position,'' Harris said. ''We lost two games to good teams. We need to get a couple more wins and get ready for conference.''