Arkansas Frontcourt Dominant in UT Martin Rout


FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas forward Coty Clarke got one hand on his 10th rebound for a split second Thursday night.

That was as long as he could hold it. Arkansas Bobby Portis snatched the ball out of Clarke’s hands for himself, adding to his rebound total during Arkansas’ 102-56 win against UT Martin in front of an announced crowd of 6,315 in Bud Walton Arena.

Clarke recounted the moment after the game and joked that Portis was simply “jealous.” But the senior didn’t mind, even though his freshman teammate kept him recording a double-double for the first time this season.

“That’s what I was brought here to do and they were brought here to help get on the boards,” Clarke said about Portis and fellow freshman Moses Kingsley. “So when you see us fighting like that, it’s nothing but what we want and what coach wants.

“As long as it’s just us two and not the other team, I’ll take that any day.”

The Razorbacks enjoyed it Thursday, overpowering a UT Martin team whose tallest players were 6-foot-7. The 6-7 Clarke (15 points, 9 rebounds), 6-10 Portis (15 points, 9 rebounds) and 6-10 Kingsley (12 points, 12 rebounds) all enjoyed big nights in the post to help the Razorbacks equal their biggest win of the season.

Arkansas outscored UT Martin in the paint (54-18), outrebounded the Skyhawks (49-31) and shot 60.9 percent (42-69). It was more than enough to help the Razorbacks run their home winning streak to win its 21st straight home game.

“We played to our strengths,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “We had a size advantage and we did a good job of taking advantage of that against UT Martin.”

It started from the opening tip, even though the big men didn’t start their dominant night in the post. Instead, the early success came from the perimeter.

Clarke hit a mid-range jumper to open the game and Portis knocked down a 3-pointer — just his second of the season — on Arkansas’ next possession to give the Razorbacks a quick 5-0 lead. Clarke added another jumper three minutes later to make it 7-2 before the big men started to make their mark in the paint.

Clarke and Portis each had 9 points and 3 rebounds at halftime, making sure Arkansas didn’t copy its first-half struggles against Savannah State last Thursday.

“Coach talked about bringing that energy and effort from the jump,” Clarke said. “He was like, ‘Just play.’ We’ve been in practice for a long week and getting after it. So, you know, we were ready to play another team.”

Kingsley provided valuable contributions as well, making the most of his minutes against UT Martin. He scored 8 points (one off his previous career high), grabbed 7 rebounds (equaling his career high) and blocked a shot in nine minutes as the Razorbacks took a 49-25 lead into the locker room.

“The greatest thing about freshmen and those guys there, they want to be impact guys,” Anderson said. “So my deal is, they’ve got to go at their own pace. And what is his pace? He wants to get there a little quicker than what everybody thinks. Even the coach thinks. But that’s a tribute to Moses and how hard he’s worked in practice.”

Arkansas didn’t let up after the break, continuing to dominate the Skyhawks.

By the time it was over, Kingsley had notched his first double-double with career highs in points and rebounds. Portis and Clarke came close to joining him.

“They’re tough matchups,” UT Martin coach Jason James said. “I think they do what they do. I think they’re hard to guard, especially on the block. I think the thing that makes those guys tough is they’re versatile. They play a bunch of different positions, do a bunch of different things and coach can play a bunch of different lineups.”

But the big mean weren’t alone in the big night. Guards Ky Madden and Michael Qualls joined the three forwards in double figures with 11 points each and were among a season-high seven players to make 3-pointers.

Arkansas went 10-for-21 from long range and had 11 different players score.

The Razorbacks were equally effective defensively. Arkansas had eight steals and outscored the Skyhawks 21-3 off turnovers. UT Martin’s turnover total wasn’t high (13), but James said Arkansas affected his team throughout the game.

“From a defensive standpoint, we haven’t played one better,” James said. “They played with such a sense of urgency on the defensive end. They play like their house is on fire and they’ve got to rush to get everything out. That’s the urgency they play with and (Thursday) they got everything out of the house before it burned down.”

Portis pushed Arkansas over the 100-point mark for the second time in four games on a layup with 2:27 left before checking out. Kingsley added Arkansas’ final points with a pair of free throws with 1:53 left.

Clarke, who was watching from the bench at that point, said the dominance was a sign of what the Hogs can accomplish if they continue to grow up front.

“It just shows the ability that we have and we’ve got to bring it night in and night out,” Clarke said. “Bobby and Moses have been bringing it. And I’m just starting to pick it back up to where I needed to be and elevate my play.”