AUBURN, Ala. — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson considered Tuesday night’s 101-87 victory at Auburn a “total team win.”
Why? Five of his players scored in double-figures, and the team combined for 23 assists as the No. 24 Razorbacks (19-5, 8-3 Southeastern Conference) beat Auburn (11-13, 3-8) for the eighth consecutive time.
“It was poetry in motion,” Anderson said after forward Bobby Portis scored 22 points and guard Michael Qualls added 19 to pace the Razorbacks. “Ball movement and people movement. Bobby Portis is such an advantage for us because he can go inside or outside, and that opens things up for us and brings the defense out even more.”
Arkansas made 35 of 65 shots (53.8 percent), including 11 of 23 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
“Arkansas, they did a great job of sharing the ball, and they played well together,” said first-year Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, whose team lost for the sixth time in seven games. “They’re better from 2(-point range) than they are from 3(-point range), but they were terrific from 3 tonight. We didn’t contest. We didn’t defend.”
The Razorbacks finished with their highest point total of the season. Arkansas’ 101 points were the second most allowed by the Tigers in their arena’s five-year history.
“I don’t care what building we’re in,” Pearl snapped. “We scored 87.”
Though Portis, who added eight rebounds, paced the Razorbacks’ offense, Anderson was more than pleased with Qualls, whom the coach said isn’t 100 percent after sustaining a recent minor knee injury.
“Qualls did other things than shoot,” Anderson said. “The shooting came because he started doing other things on defense, rebounding and trying to block shots.”
Senior guard KT Harrell paced Auburn with 21 points. Auburn junior power forward Cinmeon Bowers, who leads the SEC with 14 double-doubles, scored 10 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
The Tigers trailed only 68-59 with 15 minutes remaining after Bowers scored on back-to-back trips down the court. However, Arkansas slowly put the game out of reach. Three-pointers from junior guards Jabril Durham and Anthlon Bell, who scored 16 points, put the Hogs up 84-66 with 9:56 left.
Auburn never challenged again.
Arkansas took a 58-47 lead into halftime. Qualls scored 16 first-half points, and the Razorbacks made 19 of 31 field-goal attempts before the break (61.3 percent), including seven of 12 shots from 3-point range.
The Razorbacks held a 32-20 lead after forward Jacorey Williams drained a 3-pointer. However, the Tigers twice cut the margin to six with 3-pointers from Harrell and forward Alex Thompson. Harrell led all scorers with 17 first-half points.
Arkansas owned the final six minutes of the half, outscoring the Tigers 17-12 in that span. The Razorbacks’ largest lead before the break, 54-40, came with 1:30 left after another Williams 3-pointer.
Overall, the teams combined for 53 fouls and four technicals in a game both coaches described as “chippy.”
“They wanted to win, and our guys wanted to win,” Anderson said. “The big thing is you want to play with composure.”
Pearl added, “If they are going to play like that, then the officials had no choice. They had to take control.”
Auburn was playing its third game in six days, something Pearl noted had an effect on his team.
“I thought we wore Auburn out,” Anderson said. “It was a very physical game. We took advantage of our size, but give them credit — they attacked us and we found a way to win on the road.”
NOTES: The Tigers scored in triple figures once previously this season, in a 100-92 win over Northwestern State on Dec. 28. … Although Auburn has a losing record, No. 24 Arkansas was the first ranked opponent the Tigers played this season. … Auburn G Tahj Shamsid-Deen scored two early baskets but was helped off the court and taken to the locker room five minutes into the game after injuring his left shoulder. He did not play the rest of the game. … On Saturday, Arkansas plays at Ole Miss, which beat the Hogs on Jan. 17. Auburn visits Georgia on Saturday. … Arkansas held its previous five opponents to fewer than 65 points, and it led the SEC in six statistical categories entering Tuesday’s games.
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