FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas guard Anthlon Bell didn’t begin to crawl out of his scoring slump by knocking down a long-range shot against High Point last Saturday.
Instead, Bell’s confidence was restored with some success at the free-throw line.
Bell, who scored 11 points in the 89-48 win, got going in the first half after being fouled while taking a 3-point shot. He stepped to the free-throw line, made each of his three attempts and helped Arkansas build a 32-11 lead with 6:29 left.
“Once I saw the ball go in and got to the free-throw line, I knew all would be good from then,” Bell said.
The sophomore didn’t respond with a shooting clinic. In fact, he missed his next two attempts. But Bell finished 3-for-7, including a 2-for-5 performance behind the 3-point line, to turn in his best performance in weeks.
Bell had been averaging 3.4 points in his previous five games, shooting just 2-for-17 from long range during the stretch. The 11 points against High Point were the most Bell has scored since getting 16 against California on Nov. 25.
“It feels good,” Bell said. “Now I feel like I can go into the next game and have the same game. Probably even better.”
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said the reason for Bell’s resurgence was simple: He didn’t emphasize his shooting Saturday. Instead, Bell got involved in other ways. It included a nifty pass on a fast break that resulted in a Michael Qualls dunk.
“I thought that was the best part about it because he came out and really tried to get after it on defense and getting in the passing lanes, touching balls and rebounding and getting on the floor,” Anderson said. “He made a little pass to Mike on the dunk and I think that kind of engaged him. To me, you don’t have to get it. It’s going to come to you. I think we kind of slowed him down and that he played well.”
Bell did put in plenty of extra time refining his shot as well trying to move past the disappointments. The biggest issue, Bell said, was the fact he wasn’t taking the same shot every time he loaded up during his recent struggles.
So working on shooting “the same shot every time” became his goal.
It helped him enjoy a solid night off the bench against High Point.
Now, Anderson said the success must continue with conference play looming.
“It can’t be for one game,” Anderson said. “Consistency is what we are searching for with this basketball team.”
Portis Streak Continues
Arkansas forward Bobby Portis continued an impressive streak last Saturday, scoring in double figures for the eighth straight game.
The freshman led the Razorbacks with 16 points – which was two shy of his season high of 18 — to go along with 9 rebounds.
“Primarily, it’s just confidence in myself to go out there and do the same thing every game,” Portis said about the success during his first season with the Hogs.
Portis’ streak began with a 12-point performance against Minnesota at the Maui Invitational in late November. He is averaging 14.4 points over the eight-game stretch and 12.3 points through 12 games this season.
“He has been coming on,” Anderson said. “You look at the game in Little Rock he was 5-for-5 in the first half and I think he led us in rebounding. He keeps getting better each and every game.”
Where Was Qualls?
Michael Qualls, who is Arkansas’ leading scorer, was the 11th Arkansas player to step on the floor in the first half last Saturday. But Anderson said Qualls – who checked in with the Razorbacks leading 20-7 with 9:23 left – wasn’t being disciplined.
“We just started off with some other guys,” Anderson said. “He came in and gave us great energy and gave us some quality minutes. He along with (Anthlon) Bell.”
Qualls – who was suspended for the first half of the Savannah State game for violating a team rule — made the most of his time Saturday. He tallied 12 points, 4 rebounds, a block and steal in 16 minutes. It was the 11th time in 12 games Qualls has scored in double figures this season. Qualls is averaging 13.9 points a game.
Plenty of Practices
Arkansas was anxious to get back on the court after having a week between the South Alabama and High Point games. The Hogs are repeating the schedule once again this week before the final nonconference game against Texas-San Antonio.
Portis said another week between games will give Razorbacks plenty of time on the practice court, though, with no classes because of the school’s winter break. It’s the last week of preparation before conference play begins at Texas A&M on Jan. 8.
“We’ll have two-a-days Monday through Thursday,” Portis said after the High Point win. “Then Friday, we’ll have two practices. But Friday in the morning time we’ll just shoot free throws. Then in the evening we’ll get after it.”