FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson was wondering how his team would react in its first game after the week-long trip to the Maui Invitational.
It didn’t take long to get his answer Tuesday night.
Arkansas showed no signs of sluggishness during a 111-65 win against Southeastern Louisiana in front of an announced crowd of 7,754 in Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks, playing four days after their overnight flight home to Northwest Arkansas, met little resistance from the Lions.
Michael Qualls and Bobby Portis led four Arkansas players in double figures with 16 points apiece, helping the Razorbacks crack the 100-point mark for the first time since beating Longwood 112-63 in November 2012. Arkansas shot a season-high 62.3 percent (38 of 61) and every Razorback scored in the rout.
“We’re due for a game like this where everything kind of clicked on all cylinders,” Arkansas guard Kikko Haydar said. “It’s just fun.”
Arkansas was the third SEC team Southeastern Louisiana has played this season after opening the year at Missouri (89-53) and traveling to play LSU (89-66). But the Razorbacks handed the Lions (3-3) their most lopsided loss of the season and coach Jim Yarbrough said it’s clear Anderson finally has a team that fits his style.
Yarbrough saw the difference two years ago, when SELA came to Bud Walton Arena and gave the Razorbacks fits in a game Arkansas eventually won 62-55.
“Two years ago we weren’t even at full strength and we controlled the tempo,” Yarbrough said. “And they tried to press us, and we just kind of broke it and got behind them. They’re just faster (now). It’s starting to become Mike’s team. It’s starting to look like a Mike Anderson team. I think the personnel fits him.”
Everything worked for Arkansas (5-2) on Tuesday. Even Anderson’s new lineup.
He shuffled his group once again, putting three point guards on the floor to start the game (Haydar, Rashad Madden and Fred Gulley). Haydar, a Fayetteville native, had come off the bench in his previous 66 games with the program.
“His energy is contagious,” Anderson said about his reasons for finally starting Haydar. “A little spark plug. I mean, if you look up, he’s everywhere. He’s like a little gnat out there on the floor. He’s just there, and I love it.
The fifth-year senior took advantage of the opportunity Tuesday night.
Haydar scored 9 points – all on 3-pointers – to start the game. He also added an assist, a steal and drew a charge in six minutes. Haydar’s efforts helped the Razorbacks start fast, opening a 18-7 lead before Anderson turned to his bench.
“I was a little surprised,” Haydar said. “Coach always told me to be ready for the opportunity. It was a little weird at first, but it was really not that big of a deal.”
Anderson eventually got 12 players on the floor in the first half and the group effort helped them jump out to a 40-14 lead. The Razorbacks had a five-minute lull late in the half, but still took a 52-32 advantage to the locker room.
They didn’t let up in the second half. Instead, Arkansas turned up the intensity and outscored SELA 18-3 in the opening minutes. The Razorbacks were able to build as much as a 57-point cushion with Mardracus Wade and Manuale Watkins becoming the last players to score on back-to-back possessions with four minutes remaining.
Arkansas outscored the Lions 41-9 off turnovers and 42-20 in the paint. No one played more than 18 minutes. Twelve players logged at least 10 minutes in the rout.
“It was a total team game,” said Gulley, who finished with 9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. “We all got to play. Everybody got in and got to contribute. So it was exciting for everybody. … It was what we needed.”
Tuesday’s game was the start of a seven-game homestand, which will stretch until the start of Southeastern Conference play in January. The next step is, arguably, the most challenging remaining on Arkansas’ nonconference schedule.
The Razorbacks will play Clemson (7-1) in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.
But Anderson believes his team will be prepared after watching its growth continue.
“Did we take some lessons learned from Hawaii? Yes we did,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a lot of room for improvement and hopefully we can get a lot better.”