Qualls' 22 leads No. 25 Arkansas past North Texas
Nov. 29, 2014
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Mike Anderson stressed the importance and strength of Arkansas' depth throughout the preseason and early going this season.
The Razorbacks coach put that depth to work in an 89-73 victory over North Texas on Friday night, a game in which preseason All-Southeastern Conference first-teamer Bobby Portis battled foul trouble throughout.
Michael Qualls had a career-high 22 points to help Arkansas improve to 5-0 for the first time since 2006.
The Razorbacks struggled for much of the game, even trailing midway through the second half, but 10 players scored as they had 21 assists in pulling away and overcoming Portis' absence for much of the game.
"They do it on their own," Anderson said. "They even told (Portis), 'We've got your back.' ... This is going to be a total team, and it was a total team win."
Qualls finished with four 3-pointers, topping his previous best of 21 points against California last season. He was matched from the outside by Anthlon Bell — who finished with 15 points. Ky Madden added 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
T.J. Taylor led the Mean Green (4-2) with 16 points. Jordan Williams had 15, Muhammed Ahmed 12 and Maurice Anieflok 10.
North Texas has lost 45 straight games against ranked opponents, with its last win coming against Louisville in 1971. It played like a team intent on ending that streak for much of Friday night, taking a 55-54 lead on DeAndre Harris' breakaway dunk with 11:57 remaining.
The Razorbacks, however, proved too much to overcome — thanks in large part to a 47-34 rebounding advantage, including 21 offensive rebounds.
"Everything they do is about pressure, and I thought their pressure just kind of took over at the end," North Texas coach Tony Benford said. "It sped us up a little bit and turned us over, and they killed us on the glass."
Arkansas has now won two straight games after being ranked for the first time since November 2007.
North Texas never trailed by more than five points in the first half, thanks in large part to committing only three first-half turnovers and shooting 13 of 27 (48.1 percent) from the field.
Led by back-to-back baskets by Portis, who finished with six points before fouling out, Arkansas finally gained control of the game for good with an 11-2 run to take a 68-58 lead. Qualls, who has now scored in double figures in four of five games this season, also had a pair of free throws during the run.
Qualls also finished with nine rebounds, two short of his career high of 11 — set against Tennessee two seasons ago as a freshman.
"When another man goes out, we just pick him up," Madden said of playing without Portis. "That's what we're supposed to do. We came out as a unit and picked up his slack."
The Razorbacks last opened 5-0 during the 2006-07 season, losing their sixth game that year at Missouri. Their last 6-0 start came during the 1997-98 season when they started 8-0.
North Texas: After some hot shooting to open the game, the Mean Green cooled off in the second half — hitting 13 of 31 (41.9 percent) shots. Williams was 5-of-15 shooting for the game.
Arkansas: With Portis, the Razorbacks preseason first-team Southeastern Conference selection, limited to 15 minutes before fouling out, sophomore center Moses Kingsley came off the bench and had nine points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes.
North Texas plays the second of three straight games on the road when it faces Oklahoma State on Wednesday night.
Arkansas takes the court for the third time in six days when it hosts Iona on Sunday.