Strong defense propels Hogs to exhibition win over Northeastern - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Strong defense propels Hogs to exhibition win over Northeastern State

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FAYETTEVILLE (ArkansasRazorbacks.com)  Led by the inside-out duo of senior Coty Clarke and sophomore Anthlon Bell along with a sound effort on the defensive end, the University of Arkansas men's basketball team finished off its preseason with a 81-54 exhibition win over Northeastern State Tuesday night at Bud Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks performance on the defensive end was highlighted by forcing Northeastern State into 22 turnovers that helped lead to a 22-6 edge in points off miscues and a commanding 20-0 advantage in fast break points. Eight different players contributed to the 13-steal night while the Razorbacks also had 10 blocks.

"I thought in the second half we played our style of basketball," said head coach Mike Anderson. "It was more up-tempo and there was a more concerted effort on the defensive end. A lot of our offense was a result of our effort on defense and that's how we want to play. We made strides in the second half and that's what we needed to see tonight."

Clarke finished with an efficient 16 points on 7-of-9 from the field to go along with seven rebounds, including four offensive. Bell had six of the team's first nine points and went on to score 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Redshirt junior Alandise Harris was the final Razorback in double figures with 10 points and eight rebounds in just 19 minutes of work.

Struggling to find its rhythm on the offensive end, Arkansas was able to build a 33-26 halftime lead behind 11 offensive rebounds and a 12-0 edge in points off turnovers. Clarke and Portis were the primary contributors to the Razorbacks' 28 first half rebounds, grabbing a combined 11 between them while Clarke had eight points on 3-of-4 from the field.

Behind Clarke and Bell, Arkansas shook off its 31 percent shooting performance in the first half by hitting six of its first eight shots, all of which came from the forward-guard duo. Clarke scored six of the team's first eight points during a 10-4 run to open the period that pushed the lead to double figures where it would remain over the final 17:21 of the contest.

Leading 57-42 with 10:56 left, Arkansas finished off the win with a 15-3 run that absorbed the next 7:02 and resulted in a 72-45 lead. As it had all game, defense fueled the game-clinching spurt, as Northeastern State was just 1-of-11 from the field with four turnovers during the run.

Arkansas finished with a 44 percent clip (31-71) from the field and held a 48-35 edge on the glass that was highlighted by 18 offensive caroms. The Razorbacks' 48 second half points were the result of 19-of-32 from the field, while passed out 19 assists on the night. Freshman forward Bobby Portis dished out a team-high six assists.

On the flipside, Northeastern State committed 22 turnovers while making just 19 shots from the floor. Keon Littleton led the Riverhawks with 14 points.

Redshirt senior Fred Gulley III finished with nine points over his 20 turnover-free minutes. Sophomore wing Michael Qualls provided a big spark off the bench with a pair of highlight-reel dunks en route to nine points, six rebounds and three steals.

Arkansas will open regular season action on Friday when it welcomes SIU-Edwardsville to Bud Walton Arena for the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Tip is slated for 7 p.m.

For more information on Arkansas basketball, follow @RazorbackMBB on Twitter.

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