In a game that it led from start to finish, the Arkansas men's basketball team stretched its home win streak to 17 games behind a season-high 11 three-pointers en route to an 89-78 win over former Southwest Conference rival SMU in front of 11,455 fans on Monday night at Bud Walton Arena.
Taking on SMU for the 153rd time in program history, the Razorbacks picked up their 12th straight win over the Mustangs while improving to 3-0 on the young season. Arkansas led by as many as 24 points, handing SMU (2-1) its first loss of the season.
"Hats off to our guys. I thought we came out and really set the tempo to the game in the first half," said head coach Mike Anderson, who has now coached eight teams to 3-0 starts out of his 12 seasons on the sidelines. "We were really charged up and it gave us the chance to have a cushion at halftime. We really continued to establish tempo early in the second half and that ultimately led to the win."
A big part of that tempo so far this season has been the duo of redshirt junior Alandise Harris and sophomore Michael Qualls who have combined for at least 30 points in all three games this season. Entering as the team's leading scorer, Harris poured in a game-high 21 points, including a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line, and grabbed six boards. Qualls broke or tied his career-high for the third straight game with 17 points while also adding six rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Qualls (3-4) was one of six players to make a three on the night, as the 11 three-pointers equaled the most by an Arkansas team under Anderson's direction and the most by an Arkansas club in the last 61 games. All three of sophomore Anthlon Bell's trifectas came in the first half, as he rounded out the double figure scorers with 11 points.
For the game, Arkansas shot 44 percent (25-57) from the field, but made up for it at the charity stripe by shooting 28-of-37, highlighted by Harris' perfect night which was the seventh time in his career he's shot double-digit free throws in a game. SMU finished with a 45 percent clip (27-60) from the floor, but was undone by 18 turnovers that led to 20 Arkansas points, a by-product of Anderson's #Fastest40 style of play. Arkansas has won the turnover battle all three times this season, while Anderson has won it in a staggering 308 of 365 games coached.
"We want to win those stats," Coach Anderson said. "We want turnovers and to have more assists. Your chances of winning are pretty good. We got to the free throw line and we made our free throws. We're an attacking team and that's what's going to be present."
SMU was led by 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting from Ben Moore, one of four Mustangs to finish in double-digits.
The three-point barrage started early and happened often, as Bell and senior Fred Gulley III knocked down back-to-back trifectas in Arkansas' first two possessions for a 6-0 lead just 75 seconds into the contest.
Out of Arkansas' first eight made fields, five were from three-point land and it was the sixth triple of the opening half by sophomore Jacorey Williams that gave the Razorbacks a double figure lead, 30-20, at the 8:35 mark. Arkansas took a commanding 46-30 lead into the locker at the half and held on to the double-digit lead until there was 3:56 to play in the game.
For the second time this season, senior Coty Clarke led the way on the boards with eight rebounds while also supplying six points and a team-best four assists. Freshman Bobby Portis was a bucket away from his second straight double figure game with eight points, while junior Rashad Madden chipped in nine points to help the Arkansas bench finish with nearly half (44) of the team's 89 points.
The Razorbacks will now head to the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational where they will open with California in the first game of the tournament. Arkansas will take on the Bears Monday, Nov. 25, at 2 p.m. CT on ESPN2.