No. 23 Arkansas rallies to edge Georgia in SEC opener
A road win was the perfect way for Arkansas to open its Southeastern Conference schedule and for coach Mike Anderson to celebrate a contract extension.
Bobby Portis scored 21 points, Michael Qualls added 17 and No. 23 Arkansas rallied from a first-half deficit of 13 points to beat Georgia 79-75 on Tuesday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for each team.
The Razorbacks are 71-41 under Anderson, including 60-6 at Bud Walton Arena. They improved to only 11-35 on the road in four seasons with Anderson.
"This was a great win for us," said Alandise Harris, who had 15 points. "People say we can’t win on the road. That’s the stigma of Arkansas forever."
Arkansas (12-2, 1-0 SEC) needed a strong second half for its sixth straight win. The Razorbacks played from behind before taking their first lead with about 6 minutes remaining.
Anderson, awarded a two-year extension through the 2019-20 season earlier Tuesday, said the road win was a good sign for his team’s toughness.
"It’s a little tougher to do it on the road, but when you do it, it tells you a little bit about your team, the mental toughness, the physical toughness and just finding a win to win against a very good Georgia team," Anderson said.
A rebound and basket by Georgia’s Marcus Thornton with 4.5 seconds remaining cut the Arkansas lead to 77-75. Two free throws by Qualls pushed the lead back to four points.
Nemanja Djurisic led Georgia (9-4, 0-1) with 16 points. The loss ended the Bulldogs’ six-game winning streak, their longest in four years.
"I thought we played very hard, but we didn’t get the stops we needed to get," said Georgia coach Mark Fox. "You can’t give up (51.7) percent from the field and expect to win versus a good team."
With Arkansas leading 74-70, Georgia’s Kenny Gaines missed a long jumper. Following a missed attempted tip by Georgia, the Razorbacks quickly pushed the ball the other way to set up a powerful jam by Qualls.
Georgia led the full first half, including a big lead of 13 points at 38-25. The Bulldogs made only four of their first 18 shots in the second half, opening the door for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas pulled even for the first time at 61-all on a 3-pointer by Anton Beard. It took its first lead at 63-61 on a jumper by Harris with 6:33 remaining.
Georgia freshman Yante Maten answered with an inside basket but missed a free throw, leaving the Bulldogs with their last lead at 64-63.
Harris sank a long jumper and then added a 3-pointer on the Razorbacks’ next possession. A basket by Qualls pushed the lead to 70-64.
Djurisic had 11 points as Georgia led 44-37 at halftime, despite 15 points by Portis. Georgia made six of nine 3-pointers in the half.
Arkansas: Anderson’s salary is unchanged at $2.2 million annually. … Arkansas played its SEC opener on the road for the third straight year. … Arkansas, which moved back into the Top 25 on Monday, was ranked when opening its SEC schedule for the first time since 1999.
Georgia: The 9-3 nonconference record was Georgia’s best since 2011, when Bulldogs were 11-2 before finishing with 21 wins and its last berth in the NCAA tournament. … Thornton and Juwan Parker each had 11 points. Kenny Gaines and J.J. Frazier each had 10.
Fox called the intensity in the game "high-level" and said "That was like an NCAA tournament game. … Both teams got after it."
After a hot first half, when it made 15 of 26 shots (57.7 percent), Georgia made only 10 of 29 shots (34.5 percent) in the second half.
"In the second half, our defense was unbelievable," Portis said. "… We put pressure on the ball."