Portis scores 32 points, Arkansas beats Vanderbilt 82-70
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Bobby Portis is rarely one to talk at extended length about his personal success on the basketball court.
The Arkansas sophomore is perfectly comfortable, however, letting his growing list of achievements make his case as one of the Southeastern Conference’s best.
Portis continued his emergence on the national stage with a season-high 32 points and the No. 23 Razorbacks won their seventh in a row, beating Vanderbilt 82-70 on Saturday.
It’s the first time since the 2007-08 season that Arkansas (13-2) has started 2-0 in conference play, and it did so in familiar fashion – scoring 31 points off a season-worst 22 turnovers by the Commodores (11-4, 1-1).
More than anyone, it was Portis – who scored 21 points in the second half and finished 13 of 18 from the field – who led the Razorbacks to their 16th straight win at home. He was three points short of his career best of 35 points set last season against Alabama.
He also finished with 11 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end.
”Bobby Portis was just active all night,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ”He was the Bell cow; he was the guy we went through.”
Michael Qualls added 20 points for Arkansas, while Ky Madden added eight points, six assists and three steals in front of a season-high of 16,049 in Bud Walton Arena.
While the Razorbacks celebrated their hot start, Vanderbilt’s four-game winning streak came to a sudden halt.
Damian Jones and Matthew Fisher-Davis each had 14 points to lead the Commodores. Luke Kornet added 11, and Riley Lachance had 10 – though Portis’ effort and the turnovers were far too much to overcome.
And that was just fine with Portis, who had a point to prove against another of the SEC’s best big men in Jones.
”People say (Jones is better) a lot, so I had to do something to shut that up,” Portis said. ”Just my friends talking smack; I had to shut them up.”
Arkansas led 36-28 at halftime, with Portis scoring 11 first-half points and the Razorbacks finishing with 17 points off 14 turnovers by the Commodores – who entered the game averaging only 13.9 turnovers.
The Razorbacks led by as many as 10 points in the first half, and they matched that at 49-39 early in the second half after a 3-pointer by Anthlon Bell.
Vanderbilt, however, twice cut Arkansas’ lead to one point in the second half on dunks by Jones – including 53-52 after a thundering putback throw down by the 6-foot-10 sophomore.
After a pair of free throws by Qualls, the Razorbacks quickly forced a pair of turnovers by the Commodores – their 18th and 19th of the game – and extended the lead to 60-52 after a putback by Qualls and 3-pointer by Ky Madden.
”That’s Arkansas basketball right there,” Qualls said. ”I feel everybody was engaged, everybody was locked down, especially in the first half for a span of time. They didn’t have (anybody) to throw the ball to.”
Despite shooting 66.7 percent (16 of 24) in the second half, Vanderbilt was unable to cut Arkansas’ lead to fewer than five points after that.
”I thought there were some things we did poorly,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. ”Obviously, defending Portis was one of them. And our ball care, especially to start the game, was brutal.”
Arkansas forward Jacorey Williams played a season-high 30 minutes off the bench, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. The junior had eight points in the first half, including back-to-back baskets to counter a pair of 3-pointer by Fisher-Davis.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores entered the game as the top shooting team in the SEC, having hit 50 percent of their shots this season. However, flustered by Arkansas’ tenacious defense, Vanderbilt was only 10 of 26 (38.5 percent) in the first half before improving in the second half and finishing 26 of 50 (52 percent) for the game.
Arkansas: Portis, who is third in the SEC with 17.1 points per game, has now scored at least 20 points six times this season. He’s scored in single digits only once, a six-point effort against North Texas on Nov. 28.
Vanderbilt returns home to face Georgia on Wednesday night.
Arkansas is at Tennessee on Tuesday night.