Arkansas blasts UTSA in final nonconference game


FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas ended nonconference play by snacking on the biggest cupcake of the season.

The Razorbacks blasted hapless Texas San-Antonio 104-71 on Saturday at Bud Walton Arena. It was the final tuneup before Arkansas (11-2) opens Southeastern Conference play Wednesday at Texas A&M.

A Conference USA team, UTSA (4-9) entered the game as one of the worst Division-I teams in the nation. Of 351 teams, the Roadrunners were ranked 344th in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, 344th in USA Today’s Sagarin Ratings and 348th in the RPI. Arkansas was ranked 27th, 26th and 68th in the same indexes.

The disparity between the teams was so great before tipoff that the only question — aside from the final score — that needed to be answered was which Razorback was going to score the 100th point of the game. Moses Kingsley provided the answer with a basket with 2:08 left on the clock.

However, Arkansas senior guard Kikko Haydar said staying in the game mentally wasn’t a problem.

“I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily (say) we knew coming in we were going to blow them out. The coaches actually do a very good job of pumping teams up. You would have thought that was the best team we had played all year,” Haydar said.

“But I mean, it’s not the easiest thing to do when you’re winning by a lot to keep the intensity up. But coach (Mike Anderson) is really good at jumping on us when we’re not being intense and we had some lulls tonight, but overall we kept our energy up and that’s what we’re going to have to do in conference.”

Bobby Portis finished with a career-high 19 points and 10 rebounds for Arkansas. He was a perfect 8-of-8 from the floor. His only blemish was a lone missed free throw.

“You look at it and he was almost perfect,” Anderson said. “He missed one free throw. I mean he rebounded the basketball. In 23 minutes — three assists and two blocked shots. He was active tonight. He is playing some quality minutes for us. He has a big-time motor, energy and he’s got a great feel for the game.”

Rashad Madden scored 15, while Michael Qualls finished with 11 as 13 of the 14 Razorbacks who played scored. Devon Agusi scored a game-high 20 for UTSA while Hyjii Thomas and Jordan Sims each scored 12.

In the first half, Arkansas didn’t waste much time establishing a lead. After a brief 2-2 tie, Arkansas went on a 12-2 run for a double-digit lead less than three minutes into the game. UTSA pulled to within seven at 22-15, but a 17-4 scoring run by the Razorbacks during the next 4:09 put the Roadrunners in the rear-view mirror for good.

By the time Coty Clarke committed the Razorbacks’ first turnover, UTSA had coughed it up 14 times — and there was only 2:16 left in the first half. Arkansas led 62-35 at the half, thanks in part of 22 points off turnovers.

In all, Arkansas forced 28 turnovers and gave the ball away to UTSA seven times. That allowed the Razorbacks to finish with 40 points off turnovers to 12 by the Roadrunners. Arkansas also got 14 steals compared to four by UTSA. Coty Clarke accounted for five of the Razorbacks’ steals.

Part of the Roadrunners’ turnover problems were caused by the absence of Keon Lewis, who missed the game because of concussion-like symptoms after being injured during practice.

“We have our starting point guard home right now. So (we were) playing against pressure with basically one point guard,” UTSA head coach Brooks Thompson said. “When you turn the ball over 28 times, which is uncharacteristic for us and too much. But it’s from having one primary ball handler and they’re a very good pressure defense, you know they’re 94 feet of pressure.”

But the game slowed in the second half as Arkansas no longer had a sense of urgency. In fact, the only Razorback to show any fire in the second half was Anderson himself. The Arkansas head coach picked up a technical foul midway through the second half for arguing against a blocking call against Haydar.

“I gave them some points. I probably gave them about five points. I told my guys, hey, I’ll take the blame for them getting over 70,” Anderson said. “I just thought it was (a charge). I thought it was one of those where he just ran over him. … I guess I deserved it.”

With the win, Arkansas has now won 23 consecutive games at Walton Arena. The Razorbacks will start SEC play on a seven-game winning streak when they travel to College Station, Texas, next week.

“I can just see the progress is continuing, and we’re going to need it to continue at a rapid pace as we get into conference play,” Anderson said. “Because all records are null and void now. Everybody’s 0-0.”