Anthlon Bell scored a career-high 28 points to lead Arkansas to a 91-71 win over Indiana State in the first round of the NIT Tuesday night in Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas had another chance to play in Bud Walton Arena this season. The spectacular 110-point finish over Ole Miss on March 5th was thought to be their last home game of the season, but they were wrong.
Bell single-handedly kept the Hogs in the game during an ugly first half of play. He had 18 points at half. It looked as though the Hogs didn’t care about the game because they were playing in the NIT.
Bell has scored 51 points in his last 43 minutes of play in Bud Walton Arena. He also set the Arkansas NIT scoring record with his career-high 28 points. He was 11-of-13 from the field including 6-of-8 from long range. He also grabbed six rebounds.
The second half was much better for Arkansas and they looked as though they wanted to be playing. Bobby Portis and Alandise Harris combined for 20 second half points, after only combining for three points in the first half on 0-9 shooting.
The last 20 minutes, Arkansas looked like a completely different team. They wore the Sycamores down. Indiana State committed 12 turnovers and shot only 35.3 percent (24-68) from the field.
Arkansas won the boards, something they have struggled with all season. They outrebounded Indiana State 46-32. Portis grabbed 13 rebounds including five offensive boards.
Portis passed Marshawn Powell for the freshman rebound record at Arkansas. Powell held the record at 215 rebounds; Portis now has 220 rebounds.
Portis finished the game with a double-double. He had 10 points and 13 boards. Coty Clarke also finished with 10 points. Rashad Madden and Michael Qualls each scored 11 points. Harris finished with 13 points.
Qualls made the Sportscenter Top 10 Plays for the eighth time this season with an alley-oop dunk. That is the 10th time this season that the team has been featured on Sportscenter Top 10 Plays.
Arkansas now awaits the winner of Wednesday night’s game between California and Utah Valley. If California wins, Arkansas will travel to California to play. If Utah Valley wins, Arkansas will host them in Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas will most likely be facing California, but it is postseason so anything could happen.
If Arkansas does play California it will be a rematch of a game early in the season that took place in the Maui Invitational. The Hogs lost 85-77. Arkansas was outplayed against the Golden Bears earlier in the season, so they should be looking for revenge if they play California Thursday.
If Arkansas happens to face Utah Valley, it won’t be easy. The Wolverines are 20-11 on the season and finished first in the WAC with a 13-3 conference record.
Arkansas needs to get a few more wins out of the NIT, if not win it all. It will be good for them to have some success in the postseason going in to next season because next season the NIT isn’t going to cut it. It’s the NCAA Tournament or bust.