Qualls, Portis lead No. 18 Arkansas past Missouri
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Michael Qualls had 21 points and No. 18 Arkansas beat Missouri 84-69 on Wednesday night for its fifth straight victory and eighth in nine games.
Bobby Portis added 16 points on eight of 12 shooting to help the Razorbacks (21-5, 10-3 Southeastern Conference) continue their best start in conference play since the 1997-98 season. Arkansas’ only loss since Jan. 17 is a 57-56 setback at Florida.
Qualls scored in double figures for the third straight game. The junior is 17 of 34 from the field in his last three games after going 14 of 59 in his previous five.
Missouri (7-19, 1-12) has lost 12 straight games for the first time since the 1966-67 season.
Jonathan Williams and Tramaine Isabell led the Tigers with 13 points each.
Arkansas beat Missouri 61-60 in their first meeting on Jan. 24, needing a pair of missed free throws by the Tigers in the closing seconds to hold on for the win.
The Tigers once again gave the Razorbacks, who are in search of their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008, fits in the first half — with Isabell putting Missouri up 19-16 with a 3-pointer.
Led by the resurgent Qualls, Arkansas answered with a 15-0 run to take control after that. Qualls had six points during the run, and Portis — who also had nine rebounds — capped the run with an inside basket to put the Razorbacks up 31-19.
Missouri closed the Arkansas lead to 37-29 at halftime, but the Razorbacks extended their lead to 44-29 to open the second half and were never threatened after that.
Qualls was four of seven on 3-pointers, helping Arkansas to 10 of 22 overall from behind the arc, and he topped the 20-point mark for the first time since a career-best 30-point outburst against Alabama on Jan. 22.
The forward also had a highlight-worthy one-handed dunk in the second half to put Arkansas up 61-56, his 26th dunk of the season.
Anton Beard added 13 points for the Razorbacks.
Missouri: A game after scoring a career-best 27 points against Mississippi State, Williams was four of 11 from the field for the Tigers. Missouri was 26-of-52 shooting (50 percent) overall, but it was only six of 17 on 3-pointers and committed 20 turnovers.
Arkansas: Former Final Four Most Outstanding Player Corliss Williamson was honored at halftime of Wednesday’s game. Flanked by his family, former teammates and former coach, Nolan Richardson, the current Sacramento Kings assistant coach — who led Arkansas to the Razorbacks only national title in 1994 — had a banner with his name and no. 34 hung inside Bud Walton Arena.
Missouri returns to the road when it travels to Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Arkansas is at Mississippi State on Saturday.