Despite a career-high 21 points from sophomore Michael Qualls, the Arkansas men’s basketball team dropped a hard-fought 85-77 decision to Pac-12 member California on Monday in the opening game of the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center seen on ESPN2.
The loss in the first of the season for the Razorbacks (3-1), who will now take on Big Ten foe Minnesota (5-1) on Tuesday. Tip is slated for 1 p.m. CT and can be seen live on ESPN2 with Jon Sciambi and Jimmy Dykes on the call.
“Give California credit. That’s a good team and they did a nice job of attacking the backboard and settling the pace down in the second half,” said head coach Mike Anderson. “I thought we played hard and there were spurts where the game was the style that we wanted it, but Cal made some big plays to break those runs.”
Arkansas was undone by a 48-32 advantage on the glass for the Bears and the starting frontcourt duo of Richard Solomon and David Kravish who combined for 30 points and 22 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive end. Kravish posted a double-double of 19 points and a game-high 15 rebounds to lead four Bears in double figures.
Qualls was part of an Arkansas bench that supplied all three of the team’s double-digit scorers and combined for 64 points. It marked the fourth straight game to start the season that Qualls has equaled or set a career-high in points, as he scored 17 of his 21 in the second half, hitting 4-of-7 from long range to go with five rebounds.
Sophomore Anthlon Bell hit for 11 of his 16 points in the first half, dropping in four three-pointers. It marked the first time Arkansas has lost when Qualls and Bell have reached double figures in the same game (4-1). Junior Rashad Madden rounded out the double figure scorers with 10 points.
Arkansas was able to speed up California to the tune of 18 turnovers, winning the turnover battle for the fourth straight game. The Bears’ 18 miscues led to a 17-10 edge in points for the Razorbacks, but California was able to overcome the difference by shooting 53 percent (16-30) in the second half en route to 51 points.
For the game, Arkansas shot 38 percent (24-64), including 9-of-24 from three-point range, and committed a season-low 10 turnovers. The two teams combined for 43 fouls and 63 free throw attempts.
The game was only more than a two-possession lead for either club for a total of 22 seconds in the first half, as California took a 34-32 lead into the break, marking the first time this season Arkansas has trailed at the half.
Qualls started the second half with a three on the first possession of the period, giving Arkansas a 35-34 advantage, its first lead since the 17:44 mark of the opening 20 minutes. California responded with an 18-6 run that turned its one-point deficit into a double-digit lead, 52-41, with 14:29 to play.
Arkansas would climb to within five, 62-57, on a layup by redshirt junior Alandise Harris with under eight minutes to go, but the Bears bounced right back with an 8-0 run that pushed it back to a double figure deficit.
Harris finished with eight points while also adding team-highs of six rebounds, three steals and two blocks. With sophomore Jacorey Williams’ six points and five rebounds, the bench accounted for the team’s top five scorers and top six rebounders.