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Hoop Hogs Dodge Central Arkansas Jinx

The Razorbacks have their first two-game winning streak in North Little Rock's Verizon Arena after a two-close-for-comfort win over South Alabama Saturday night.
The Razorback basketball team entered Saturday's non conference clash with South Alabama just 5-8 all time in North Little Rock's Verizon Arena. For a time in the second half of that game it looked like the frustration would continue. A twelve point Razorback lead all but vanished during an 11-2 run by the Jaguars midway through the second half but Arkansas answered the challenge.

Hog sophomore Michael Qualls, who had struggled for much of the game, came alive during a run of his own, scoring seven straight points as the Hogs pushed their lead back to double digits eventually moving to 9-2 on the season with a 72-60 win.

"He didn't have a typical first half," head coach Mike Anderson said of Qualls. "He started off with a dunk and I was thinking it might be one of those nights. But I didn't think his energy level was there. In the second half I thought he came back and when it really mattered he made some big plays for us."

South Alabama head coach Matthew Graves was impressed with Qualls' versatility but not the two late dunks he contributed.

"I don't want to take anything away from him," Graves reflected, "he can hurt you inside and outside. But there at the end, four of those points are just kind of give-aways because we're trying to scramble and that's not how we typically play defense."

Graves was impressed with the job Arkansas did on Augustine Rubit, holding the Jaguars' senior forward to less than half of his 17.8 points per game average.

Looking at the post game stat sheet Graves said of Rubit's eight total points, "That really hurt. When we're able to get Augustine some good looks, when we can pick and pop and he's got some space to operate, he can score. With Arkansas' ability to switch ball screens it really limited what we could do offensively."

"I thought our rotations were very good getting to him," Anderson added, "and not giving him a lane to the basket. We were going to make some of their other people try to beat us."

Freshman Bobby Portis lead Arkansas in scoring with 15 points one of four Hogs in double figures. Portis was hot in the first half but an early trip to the bench in the second half helped trigger the visitors comeback.

"I was quite frustrated sitting over there because South Alabama, they were making a run at us," Portis noted. "I was getting frustrated at myself for those two fouls I picked up early in the second half."

The Hogs' other central Arkansas player had an up and down game. Junior forward Alandise Harris scored 10 points, hitting four of his eleven shots with two assists and three blocked shots but he also suffered three turnovers while trying to attack the basket. Harris rejected speculation that he was trying to force his game too much in front of a hometown crowd.

"I wouldn't say that," Harris responded. "I feel that I was just being aggressive. Like he (Anderson) told me to be. He was like, either it's going to be a foul or I'm going to score. So I wasn't trying to force anything."

Anderson paid tribute to a crowd of over 10,000 that turned out for the Razorbacks only Central Arkansas appearance of the season noting, "They love the Hogs. Even right now. They ain't ready to leave and that bodes well for our basketball team."

"I think it was good to get a win in front of the Little Rock fans," junior guard Ky Madden observed. "They really don't get a chance to see us often so it's good that we got the win and we get a little break to go home now."

The Razorbacks will report back to Fayetteville Christmas night for an immediate workout. "We have a seven o'clock practice set up and I told them, 'Don't be late,' " Anderson said with a smile.

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