FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Nothing came easy for Arkansas’ Bobby Portis following a hard first-half fall against Alabama.
The Southeastern Conference’s leading scorer, however, provided the Razorbacks with a dose of much-needed relief on Thursday night – with his buzzer-beating putback giving Arkansas a 93-91 overtime win over Alabama.
Arkansas (14-4, 3-2 SEC) lost two straight last week and fell out of the top 25, and it was in danger several times of losing two straight in Bud Walton Arena for the first time since 2011.
It was Portis, though, who overcame one of his most difficult performances of the season and improved fourth-year Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson to 62-7 at home.
With the game tied at 91-91 following a 3-pointer by the Crimson Tide’s Shannon Hale, Portis grabbed the errant shot of Ky Madden and laid it in for the dramatic victory.
“Well, that’s one for the ages,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “We always talk about classics or games that are defining moments. I think we’re going to look back on that one there, and that’s going to reflect a lot of grit, a lot of guts.”
Portis, who entered the game averaging 18.3 points per game, finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds while hitting only 4 of 12 shots after a hard first-half fall that left him holding his left elbow.
Despite the fall, he played 37 minutes and had five of Arkansas’ 21 offensive rebounds – none more important than his final one.
“That’s just a play that I had to make at the time,” Portis said. “… I just flashed to the hole and tipped it in.”
While Portis had the final play, Michael Qualls led the Razorbacks with a career-high 30 points while hitting 10 of 16 shots. The junior also had four dunks, highlighted by a one-handed putback in the first half, and he now has 76 in his career.
Justin Coleman led Alabama (12-6, 2-3), which has now lost three straight, with 22 points – all after halftime. Ricky Tarrant added 21 points and Rodney Cooper had 15 for the Crimson Tide, which lost despite hitting 12 of 24 3-point attempts.
Levi Randolph, the Crimson Tide’s leading scorer, finished with 12 points before fouling out – one of four Alabama players to foul out of the game.
“They really hurt us on the glass all night,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “(Portis) did what you’re supposed to do, he chased it and he was able to get it in before the horn went off.”
Ahead 78-75, Arkansas appeared to have the game in hand in the closing seconds of regulation when Alabama’s Hale passed up a 3-point attempt and passed to Michael Kessens under the basket.
Kessens, however, made his shot and was fouled with 2.3 seconds remaining – calmly sinking his free throw for the three-point play and tying the game at 78-78.
Once in overtime, the teams were tied at 88-88 before Arkansas’ Jacorey Williams hit a free throw with 24 seconds remaining to go up one.
Following an Alabama turnover, Qualls set a career high by hitting two free throws for his 29th and 30th points of the game with 18.2 seconds left to put the Razorbacks up 91-88. The junior’s previous best was a 28-point effort against Northwestern State earlier this season.
Hale, however, connected on a 3-pointer on the other end to tie the game – after which Madden drove the length of the court and put up the miss that Portis grabbed for Arkansas’ much-needed win.
Madden finished with 17 points for the Razorbacks, who haven’t lost back-to-back home games since 2011 against Florida and Alabama.
“Bobby’s play was stupendous,” Qualls said. “This win was vital for us; we don’t care how we got it.”
Alabama: Coleman was scoreless at halftime before scoring all 22 of his points after halftime. The freshman, whose previous high was 14 against Stillman, hit 5 of 7 3-pointers and was 7 of 8 on free throws.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks entered the game next-to-last in the SEC in field goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot 44.5 percent from the field this season – 51.2 percent in conference play. Alabama took advantage, finishing 28 of 57 (49.1 percent) from the field and 12 of 24 on 3-pointers.
Qualls, who is second on Arkansas and fourth in the SEC with an average of 16.1 points per game, finished in double figures for the ninth straight game. The junior has now topped the 20-point mark eight times this season after doing so only three times last season.
Alabama begins a two-game home stand when it hosts Auburn on Saturday night.
Arkansas is at Missouri on Saturday afternoon.
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